Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Bruce Allen Just as Bad as Cerrato?

Amidst all the excitement that my lamb sacrifices have finally paid off and Vinny Cerrato was mercifully fired, I think we are forgetting that Bruce Allen may not exactly be the savior we envision. I realize that the likely scenario is that Mike Shanahan becomes head coach and the de facto GM, but Bruce Allen will certainly be prominently involved, so I did some research.

Allen started his career in Oakland in 1995, and was there through the 2003-2004 season. The team was 9-7 the season before he arrived, and here are the records of the team each season of his tenure there, with the Skins record for that year in parentheses:

1995: 8-8 (6-10)
1996: 7-9 (9-7)
1997: 4-12 (8-7-1)
1998: 8-8 (6-10)
1999: 8-8 (10-6, lost Divisional round)
2000: 12-4, lost AFC championship (8-8)
2001: 10-6, lost Divisional round "tuck rule game" (8-8)
2002: 11-5, lost Super Bowl, named NFL Executive of the Year (7-9)
2003: 4-12 (5-11)

Allen then moved to Tampa Bay in 2004, and was there through the 2007-2008 season. Before he arrived, the Bucs were 7-9.

2004: 5-11 (6-10)
2005: 11-5 lost wild card (10-6, lost Divisional round)
2006: 4-12 (5-11)
2007: 9-7 (9-7)
2008: 9-7 (8-8)

Did you notice the Skins records compared to Allen's teams? Almost identical, save for the not so minor Super Bowl loss and championship seasons. Both were consistently mediocre, and suffered a heartbreaking Divisional round loss. The difference is that Allen was at one point able to help his team continue moving forward, whereas the Skins peaked in 1999. Not coincidentally, this is also the year Vinny Cerrato was hired. Either way though, it is hard to say Allen is significantly better than what we've had.

There are other factors, so I went through his draft history (BGO also has a thread on this). I realize there are questions about how much input Allen has on each draft, and word is that he relies heavily on his scouts, but the drafts under him are his responsibility, and there is no way around that. With the Raiders, he was okay, but not great, grabbing about one starter per draft from 1995 through 1998, and then adding 2-3 from 1999-2003, except for a poor effort in 2001. Most importantly though, these drafts were a key part of building that dominant Raider team. Just looking at his drafts compared to those of the Skins, the amount of star players looks the same, but the big difference is the depth in these drafts. The problem with the Skins has long been a lack of depth on the roster, generally due to a lack of draft picks. Bruce Allen has not only consistently kept all of his picks, but has used the entire draft to fill his roster.

In Tampa, his results were not as good, and as of today, the work of Cerrato during the 2004-2008 drafts has been better, which is a big reason why the Bucs are in the position they are today.

In addition to weak draft classes in Tampa, the other difference between his tenures in Oakland and Tampa was that he had an elite QB in Oakland, and could not find one in Tampa. That elite QB was Rich Gannon, who seemingly came off of the scrap heap to have 4 phenomenal seasons for the Raiders. That is probably the greatest move in Allen's career, but his free agent signings have also been a mixed bag. His most notable mistake has been a propensity for Super Bowl MVPs who were mostly 1 game wonders. He signed both Larry Brown and Desmond Howard after their Super Bowl performances, and both were epic busts.

So what are we getting? No one can really say, as Allen may have changed with experience, and the people providing input to him will also change from his past jobs. The good news is that he was moderately successful for the entirety of his career, has drafted for depth, and built a Super Bowl team. The bad news? His record is almost identical to that of the Skins over the same period and the team he left behind in Tampa is a complete disaster. If you remember that Cerrato was successful in San Francisco, albeit in a different era in the NFL, looking at Allen's record almost, almost, makes you think Cerrato wasn't a complete disaster in DC.

The big difference between Cerrato and Allen though, is while Cerrato was never was able to move the Skins beyond mediocrity, Bruce Allen was able to push the Raiders to the brink of winning a Super Bowl. Allen built that Raider Super Bowl team through several years of solid drafting, and then by filling-in holes with some savvy free agent signings. Although he left the Tampa a landfill, we can at least cling to the thought that we have a guy who is at least capable of moving the Skins beyond this mediocre abyss.

(Images courtesy of and

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