With all due and proper respect to the late Al Davis, Raiders coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie have done things their way.
The Raiders needed to be upgraded and modernized and the organizational infrastructure rebuilt. Davis served as his own general manager and director of college and pro scouting. He had a hand in defensive scheme and philosophy and still handled the inactives on game day.
The sad part about Davis' death last Oct. 8 was the Raiders had gone from dreadful to competitive over the past two seasons, finishing 8-8 both times after seven consecutive seasons of 11 or more losses -- a record of futility unmatched in NFL history.
However, Mark Davis, who assumed the ownership role from his father, realized neither he nor anyone else had the unique qualifications of his father.
So Davis hired McKenzie to remake the organization, McKenzie hired Allen to be his head coach, and the Raiders who take the field Monday night against the San Diego Chargers are radically different than anything the fan base is accustomed to.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," Allen said. "We've got to change, and if we don't change we'll see the same results. That's the message we've preached, and we're going to continue preaching it until the end of the season."
If all goes according to plan, the Raiders will be better tacklers on defense. They'll commit fewer penalties on both sides of the ball after setting NFL records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards last season.
Allen isn't promising to "build a bully" like predecessor Hue Jackson, who was dismissed after one season when McKenzie arrived. McKenzie said he wanted his "own guy" and he and Allen clicked during their first interview.
Allen, 39, was the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos last season and worked with the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton and the Atlanta Falcons under Dan Reeves and Jim Mora before that.
He's plain-spoken and direct, very much a perfectionist. He believes a sense of order and discipline are attained by making it clear exactly what is expected from his team.
There are no more delays while Davis ponders what move to make next, with his coaches often left without marching orders.
McKenzie turned the on-field operation over to Allen, who hired his own staff and implemented the systems of football he wanted.
He also mapped out a clear plan on how he wants things done, leaving nothing to chance.
Punter Shane Lechler, who played for Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Jackson since 2000, is amazed at the transformation in the organization.
"All the gray areas are gone. There are no kept secrets," Lechler said. "What they say is what we do and that's the way it's done. I'm glad to be able to play under this circumstance now, because now I know. You know every day what you're getting. It's fun to have that kind of structure."
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, a Raider since 2003, echoed Lechler's thoughts.
"Everything is detailed," Kelly said. "Everything's got a plan. It ain't, 'Wait a minute and we'll find out.' You know everything, you know what you've got to do, right down to the second."
Players arriving at training camp had to sign in for meals. During training camp, the middle of the field, which often included former Raiders and others who weren't part of the team but were close to Davis, became a team-only area.
Former linebacker Bill Romanowski, a local television personality, was surprised to learn he needed the proper credential and needed to stay out of the middle of the field.
Safety Michael Huff said there is no point in making excuses because, "You really can't argue about anything, because everything's been lined up for you since Day 1."
On the field, Allen and his staff concentrate on the smallest details. The position of the helmet while filling gaps against the run. Intricate footwork critiques. Everything needs to be done properly.
"Coach is a stickler," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "He's been all over us. He's a fundamental guy. He wants us to understand every facet of the game and every possible situation you could face in a game.
"We cover a lot on the field, we cover a lot in the meetings, and he's been on top of us so far."
It remains to be seen how quickly Allen's sense of detail and discipline will make the Raiders a competitor in the AFC West, a division they could have won last year with a win over the Chargers in the regular-season finale.
Being tough and smart only go so far. If the Raiders don't have the talent, winning may not come consistently.
Allen believes the Raiders are making progress.
"I think we're a tough team and we do have tough-minded people," Allen said. "We've played smart in situations and executed some situational football really well. I think some of the discipline is showing up. It's still not the final product we're looking for."
SERIES HISTORY: 105th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series 57-45-2 and split the series with the Chargers last season, winning 24-17 in San Diego but losing 38-26 in Oakland in last season's regular-season finale. With a win, the Raiders would have won the AFC West for the first time since 2002. Instead, Denver won the division on tiebreakers with an 8-8 record and Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator. The game takes place on the 34-year anniversary of the "Holy Roller," with the Raiders beating the Chargers in one of most famous finishes in franchise history with Dave Casper falling on an intentional Ken Stabler fumble in the end zone.
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