The 2014 NFL season isn’t even five weeks old, and the first head coach has already been fired. The Oakland Raiders have let go Dennis Allen shortly after they became the second team to start the year with four straight losses.
Allen won just four games in each of his first two full seasons with the team, and it didn’t appear that things were getting better. With Allen gone and 12 games left on the schedule, offensive line coach Tony Sparano, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and senior offensive assistant Al Saunders look to be the candidates to take over as the interim head coach.
While Sparano and Saunders have experience as head coaches, owner Mark Davis will likely target a big name to replace Allen. Below is a look at three candidates in Oakland’s head coaching search.
1. Jon Gruden
The Super Bowl-winning coach is reportedly the No.1 target of Davis. In his four seasons (1998-2001) as Oakland’s head coach, Gruden’s teams went 38-26, reaching the playoffs twice and never finishing with a losing record. The Raiders went to the Super Bowl the year after Gruden was traded to the Buccaneers for draft picks, but Oakland lost to Tampa Bay in the title game and the team hasn’t finished above .500 since. Gruden went 57-55 in seven seasons with the Buccaneers.
It’s unknown if Gruden is willing to leave his role as a commentator on “Monday Night Football” and get back on the sidelines. He’s been out of the game for six years and could likely have a job if he wanted one. Gruden might be willing to leave the broadcast booth for the right job, but joining an organization that has missed the playoffs in 12 straight seasons doesn’t seem too intriguing.
2. Jim Harbaugh
The San Francisco 49ers head coach has been immensely successful in his first three years with the team, reaching the NFC Championship Game in all three years. However, Allen’s firing has only futhered rumors that Harbaugh won’t finish his contract that runs through the end of next season.
Multiple reports this season have claimed that players with San Francisco are unhappy with Harbaugh, and a recent one by Deion Sanders of the NFL Network stated that some on the team want the head coach gone. If Gruden passes on the job, Harbaugh could be Davis’ next choice, though the 49ers coach denies any problems in the San Francisco locker room.
3. David Shaw
Shaw is one of the most highly coveted coaches in college football. He’s been very successful as Jim Harbaugh’s replacement in Stanford, winning at least 11 games in each of his three full seasons and finishing in the top 10 of the Coaches Poll each year. He also has NFL coaching experience, including with the Raiders, whom he was with from 1998 to 2001.
If Stanford has another successful campaign, Shaw could have a chance to land multiple jobs in 2014. However, NFL teams, especially those like the Raiders that have gone through six coaches in the last decade, could find it difficult to pry away Shaw from his alma mater.