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Dennis Allen

Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum remembers the ease with which Dennis Allen went from player to coach.

A standout free safety for the Aggies, Allen failed to stick with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 1996. Slocum brought him back as a graduate assistant.

"There wasn't any doubt about what he wanted to do," Slocum said. "He was going to coach, and he stepped right into it. It's kind of hard sometimes for guys who just finished playing to make the transition of being a coach and part of the staff. A lot of them think they're still kids. Dennis never had that problem."

Allen, the choice of general manager Reggie McKenzie to be the 18th coach of the Raiders, has the reputation of being intense, cerebral and wise beyond his 39 years.

The Raiders made no announcements Wednesday and have yet to schedule a news conference, but McKenzie told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area a "handshake agreement" was in place.

While contract details were being completed, Allen was busy talking to prospective assistant coaches, and the Denver Broncos were looking for a new defensive coordinator to replace Allen.

"He's trying to put together his staff, and the first goal is to hire his offensive and defensive coordinators," said Grady Allen, Dennis' father and a former NFL player with the Atlanta Falcons. "It's been so hectic he hasn't had time to talk."

While McKenzie and Dennis Allen have not worked together, McKenzie apparently had been watching from afar as Allen went from Texas A&M to Tulsa, the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and then to Denver.


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"I heard Reggie had been following him for a few years, watching his progression through the coaching ranks," Grady Allen said. "Evidently he's been on somebody's radar."

As a player at L.D. Bell High in Hurst, Texas -- nicknamed the Blue Raiders -- Dennis Allen thrived in good part because of his anticipatory skills.

"If it was a run, he was up close to the line of scrimmage, and if it was a pass, he was where he needed to be," said Tim Edwards, Allen's high school coach in 1990-91. "He was a tall, lanky kid, had great awareness, great flexibility and was as tough as a Texas Brahma bull. When he got there, he got there in an angry mood."

Edwards appreciated that Allen's demeanor and attitude never wavered even though the team went through a 3-7 season in his junior year followed by a 13-2 season with a trip to the Texas 5A playoffs as a senior.

"He was such a good leader and played wide open with everything he had with a bad team just like he did with a good team," Edwards said.

It was much the same at Texas A&M, with Allen using instinct and know-how to offset a lack of physical skill, according to college teammate Ray Mickens, a 10-year NFL player with the Jets, Browns and Patriots.

"He wasn't great at any one thing, but he was good at a lot of things," Mickens said. "He was very consistent and confident. If I didn't know one of the coverages, he'd remind me what it was. He was a guy who studied and knew not only his job, but everyone else's job."

Hunter Goodwin, another college teammate who played eight years with the Vikings and Dolphins, believes Allen will "instill a culture of accountability" that will be crucial for a team that set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage.

"The Raiders have a history of recklessness, and in my opinion you've got to change the culture," Goodwin said. "They've tended to go after lower-character, lower-integrity, high-skill level guys, but if you don't have a good moral compass and some integrity to buy into the team concept, they're ultimately going to fail you.

"He's got to go in and overhaul that culture, and I think he'll go about it in a workmanlike manner. I think he'll make a great head coach. I'd love to play for him."

Or as Slocum put it, "You win with character, not characters. Dennis is going to be a class guy, do things the right way, and get people around him to do that as well."

Talking to reporters at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey thinks Allen will put his stamp on the Raiders immediately.

"I know what type of team he's going to have," Bailey said. "Very intense, hard-nosed. Tough. That's the way he is. That's what I expect his team to be."

Said Broncos linebacker Von Miller: "He came in, he laid out a plan, he told us, 'This is how we're going to do it, and this will work,' and that's what happened. We improved our defense an incredible amount. It was night and day from a year before. I think he'll do the same thing with the Oakland Raiders."