INDIANAPOLIS -- And now for something completely different: The Oakland Raiders are changing the way they do business in a big way with Dennis Allen.
We'll get to the hype of the Patriots-Giants in the coming days, and I dealt with the Peyton Manning story in Monday's column (nothing's changed). The newsiest thing on my radar screen today is what came out of the Raiders introducing Dennis Allen as their seventh head-coaching hire in the last 10 years in Oakland Monday.
Allen's a defensive coach; the late Al Davis had a long history of hiring offensive coaches as head men. New GM Reggie McKenzie gave Allen a four-year contract instead of the two-year deals Davis handed coaches. McKenzie's theory: He wants everyone in the building to know Allen's going to be around a while, so don't think a 1-7 start next year will put him on the hot seat.
These are not only not your father's Raiders. They're not your older brother's Raiders, either. Owner Mark Davis didn't know McKenzie before he interviewed him to be general manager. McKenzie didn't know the 39-year-old Allen before he interviewed him, twice, for the coaching job. The way the Raiders have built their new power structure is with a blank slate, and hiring the people they feel are best for the jobs.
McKenzie, clearly, is in power because he has a generation of experience with a team that was built through the draft, the Packers. With the Raiders missing seven of their 14 draft choices in the next two years, they're going to need a GM who can make do with less -- and who can find undrafted free agents the way Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson did, and have done, in Green Bay. Allen got the job, in part, because of his passionate screed about discipline when he met with McKenzie. Oakland has led the league in penalties five times in the last nine years.
"When I met with Reggie," Allen said from Oakland late Monday afternoon, "I wanted him to feel my passion. That's who I am. If he wanted to hire me, I wanted him to hire me because of who I am. I just tried to get across what I would be about as a head coach: trust, commitment, loyalty and hard work."
I'd never spoken to Allen before Monday. He grew up in Texas and played at Texas A&M, and he seems to have taken a lot from his five-year stint as a defensive assistant under Gregg Williams in New Orleans (2006-10). Last season, he was the Denver defensive coordinator, and the Broncos were fifth in the league in sacks. Sounds like he never met a blitz he didn't like: "We'll play a fast, aggressive, attacking style of defense that takes some chances," he said.
Offensively, "I don't believe in throwing the ball 50 to 60 times a game, but I believe in an up-tempo offense that's explosive in the passing game."
Allen committed to Carson Palmer as his starting quarterback, and said he'd take advantage of Palmer's ability to throw the deep ball with the weapons the Raiders have at receiver. But if the Raiders aren't healthier, and smarter, than last year, those weapons won't mean anything.
One of Allen's first jobs will be to get to the bottom of why their skill players have been so injury-prone. Darren McFadden's career is in danger of being a washout. He's missed 12 games with injuries in the past two years, and he's never made it through a season healthy in four years. Same thing with the wideouts. With prior deals robbing the Raiders of so many draft picks, it's essential the players they do have can stay on the field.
Now onto your e-mail:
QUITE A FEW. "Loved the travel bit about Mike Mayock -- he and Brad Nessler were the best part of NFLN's Thursday night coverage. Let's be honest, most of those games were stinkers! What was the first Super Bowl you covered, how many have you covered and do you still get the Super Bowl nerves (or did you ever not have them)? Maybe it's different for press than it is for fans, but even when my team (Pittsburgh) isn't in it, I still have some pregame (and during-game) anxiety. How about you and other writers? Does yours end up being post-game/as-you-write?"-- From Michael, South Hill, Wash.
My first was the Marino-Montana game in 1985 in Palo Alto, and I've been to every one since. I do not get anxious. We're all selfish, to a degree, and my biggest concern at these things is the ability to find the story, develop it postgame with the coaches and players I speak with, and then trying to write it the right way through the night after the game. It's a fun job.
THE GLEASON STORY. "Peter, I really want to see the Steve Gleason story on NBC's pregame show on Super Bowl Sunday. I also want my children to watch it. However, it is next to impossible to keep everyone glued to the TV for the entire pregame stuff. Any chance you can provide the exact time the piece will air?"-- Rich, of Alexandria, Va.
Thanks. I don't know for certain, but I think it's going to be at the back end of the show, sometime after 3:30 p.m ET. Will try to let you know via Twitter (@SI_PeterKing) as we get closer to showtime.
IT ALL HAS TO DO WITH TV RATINGS. "As I read about this year's Super Bowl, it keeps hitting me why the NFL doesn't have the Super Bowl on a Saturday vs. Sunday. I have to go to work, like most folks every Monday morning, and have children I have to get to school as well. I know I could enjoy the Super Bowl a lot more on a Saturday night than I can on a Sunday. I started a Facebook page last year about this subject. Do you think there is a chance that this will ever happen?"-- Ben Murry, of Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
I doubt it, Ben. The NFL thinks the ratings on Saturday night, particularly among the casual fans, would be less than Sunday because lots of people would go out on Saturday night and either not watch the game at all or not watch the game at home. Watching the game in a bar isn't good for the metrics of measuring a TV audience.
ON SAN DIEGO AS A SUPER CITY. "Great column, but I have a question on one of your Ten Things. You mentioned that you'd love to see San Diego back in the Super Bowl rotation, writing that you've heard scores of people ask when it's coming back to that site. But what about other sites that should be put in the rotation?
In 2014, the NFL will play the Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey -- the first such Super Bowl in a cold-weather city. I get why -- money and exposure. Big market up there. Goodell has shown that he cares more about the money than anything else, so the move doesn't surprise me. Yet, whenever someone mentions Green Bay -- the most hallowed ground in the NFL, and the city that spawned a coach who the trophy is named after -- everybody bristles and says "Well, you can't play the Super Bowl in Green Bay -- it's too cold!
"If things go well in New York in two years, why would Green Bay not get a nod? I know the standard answer -- not enough hotel rooms. Milwaukee is 90 minutes away, and in New York fans will kill to only be 90 minutes away from the stadium. Even Chicago is only another hour beyond that, and fans travel farther than that for a regular season game at Lambeau. So why not Green Bay?"-- Corey Livermore, Las Vegas
Maybe one day it will be a Super Bowl city, because I think the Meadowlands Super Bowl sets a precedent the league will be hard-pressed to ignore. Bob Kraft and Steve Bisciotti and Dan Snyder and the Rooneys and Jeff Lurie are going to want a Super Bowl for their cold-weather cities, and if one of them gets a game, the NFL's going to have to give all of them games. Re: Green Bay, the biggest problems will be where people stay. It would be a miserable commute daily for the media and those who have to be at the game site all week, whether they be in Milwaukee or Appleton (a half-hour away) or wherever. I can't see it happening. But you're right. If the money's insane, the NFL will consider it.
ON TONY GROSSI. "In your story about Grossi and the Cleveland Browns, you defend your friend by writing that times have changed and that beat writers can now be opinionated. But you seem to overlook what appeared obvious to me: that he was removed from the beat because the Browns wouldn't take Grossi's calls. The paper may have released an alternative explanation and blamed it on bias, which may have been partially true (there's no rule saying someone can't be terminated for more than one reason). But realistically speaking (and you would know this better than I), wouldn't a beat writer need to have inside contacts and a special relationship with the team to be effective? Grossi's mis-tweet diminished his own effectiveness, and that seems to me a justifiable reason to remove him from that particular assignment."-- Lance Kane, Austin, Texas
Lance, I take the paper at its word: Grossi was removed because of the tweet, not the lack of access. Owner Randy Lerner rarely talks to the press; it's not like the beat people can pick up the phone and call him anyway. President Mike Holmgren is a little more accessible, but he goes months without speaking to the press, too. Grossi would be able to speak to the coach, the general manager and all the players freely, the way other reporters covering the beat do. I've been on beats before where some people in the organization either didn't speak to me (and other reporters) and some players didn't speak to me. Regardless if that was the case, we in the media can't let our lives and our jobs be ruled by who chooses to speak to us or not speak to us. We have to do our jobs the best we can.