Dating back to 2013, Oakland Raiders fans were calling for the job of then head coach Dennis Allen. Many believed that Allen was the primary person responsible for a lackluster Raiders team that won four games in back-to-back seasons. When the Raiders started this year 0-4, the front office finally came to the same conclusion as the Raiders fan base: Allen had to go. After the Raiders returned from the humiliating blowout in London, Allen was dispatched and former assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tony Sparano took over as the interim head coach.
Raiders fans and commentators alike remarked at how differently the team looked under Sparano. In his first week as head coach the Raiders clearly gave full effort and pushed an upward-trending San Diego Chargers team to the brink. But as many observers pointed out, a team who endures a midseason coaching switch almost always has a bump in performance in the first week under the new coach, mostly because people often become hopeful with a new start.
Sparano represented that new start and players responded. They also lost.
The Raiders have played with what appears to be more effort than they did under Allen, but the increased energy has had almost no result on the field. That Chargers game was close and against a very good team, but so was the New England Patriots game when Allen was still in charge. In the first two weeks under Sparano, the Raiders lost consecutive games at home against the Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Chargers game was close and went down to the end, but the Cardinals game was over pretty quickly. That being said, those are two strong teams. There was still hope that a vigorous performance would result in a win against a team that wasn’t very good. Someone like … the Cleveland Browns.
Then the Raiders traveled to Cleveland and looked terrible. If not for the fact that Cleveland also spent most of the game playing poorly, this could have been a London-esque blowout for the Raiders. Luckily, the Browns are still one step behind the Miami Dolphins in terms of quality. For the first time since perhaps Week 1, when they lost to the New York Jets, the Raiders were facing an opponent that represented a fair fight. But in reality, there was nothing fair about it.
Despite the perceived effort increase when Sparano replaced Allen, the results are pretty much the same. There hasn’t been any humiliating blowouts like against the Texans or the Dolphins, but I would argue that losing to the Browns by two scores, especially when the game wasn’t even that close. If not for the garbage time touchdown, the Raiders would have lost by 17 points.
This team is not any better now than they were under Allen. You could argue they are playing harder, but that’s a pretty bad sign when you think about it. Grown men being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum, to play a game no less, should not need a coaching change to play their hardest. The fact that this team remains abysmal after the coaching change goes to show that Allen, while not great, was not the problem. The problem lies in the roster itself.
Most of the free agents brought in last season are doing absolutely nothing. James Jones and Donald Penn have both been good and both represent clear upgrades. But beyond them, the Raiders have been awful in large part because their free agent class has played terribly. Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Maurice Jones-Drew, Austin Howard, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown were all supposed to play large roles in turning this ship around. Instead, they’ve been massive disappointments. Only Howard has shown flashes of good play, and those moments are few and far between.
The problems with this Raiders team are widespread, from the front office to the field. But regardless of every other position in the franchise, until the team has a respectable roster, it does not matter who the head coach is.