- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Here's the background: Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was willing to accept his team spinning its wheels under a rookie coach in Dennis Allen last season, so long as there was little to no regression.
This year? Davis wants progress. Period.
And on one hand, the Raiders seem destined to match last year's 4-12 record, which is anything but evolution in the “you are what your record says you are” line of thinking. But on the other hand, Oakland had been much more competitive in its losses while dealing with a growing list of injuries and a lack of quality depth.
Not a good visual, on any level. Especially not when conjecture begins about Allen's job security with two years remaining on his four-year contract.
“Listen, that's not what my job is,” Allen said in his weekly media conference on Monday. “My job is to try and get this team better, get this team ready to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm not going to talk about speculation or anything like that. I'm going to worry about winning a football game again this week.”
Allen was asked if he had spoken with Davis or general manager Reggie McKenzie in the wake of Sunday's loss to the Jets.
He said he had not, at least, not since arriving home from New Jersey, where his road record fell to an NFL-worst 2-13 since the start of the 2012 season.
“Reggie and I have been on the same page with everything that we've done,” Allen said. “He understands what the vision is. We have a plan for what we're trying to get accomplished. We haven't varied from that, and we won't waiver from that.
“We look at the whole thing. The evaluation process is not one-dimensional. There are a lot of things that you look at in the evaluation process. We speak quite often about where we are as a football team and the things that we need to do to get better moving forward.”
Taking one view, the Raiders have been in every game this season but two -- at the Denver Broncos and at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Even against the Jets, a play here or there -- a missed Sebastian Janikowski field goal, a blocked Marquette King punt returned for a touchdown -- and the Raiders are feeling a lot better about themselves.
At 4-9, Oakland closes with the Chiefs (10-3), at the San Diego Chargers (6-7) and the Denver Broncos (11-2).
First-year Raiders running back Rashad Jennings told reporters Monday that the players had Allen's back.
“Love him, man, love his staff,” Jennings said. “I love everything that he's been leading us (in). He's a true leader. He has a high expectation (of us). That's exactly what you want from a leader. He's been putting us in good situations to win every single game. That's all you can ask for from a coach. It always comes down to the players executing. There's a lot of accountability in this locker room. And he's definitely the man for the job ... we'll follow his lead.
“It's never up to us, but we definitely love our coach and he's the kind of coach we want to go fight for.”
There was a similar sentiment for Tom Cable, and, to a degree, for Hue Jackson.
The Raiders were coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons -- going 6-0 in the AFC West in 2010 -- when McKenzie and Allen were hired to rebuild the franchise from within and get it out of salary cap hell.
Now, you could say the Raiders are in salary-cap purgatory with a lot of room next year.
Then how much improvement has Allen seen and how much closer are they to being more than competitive, as in competing for a playoff spot?
“Well, I think we're a lot closer,” he said. “Obviously the record doesn't say so, and at the end of the day we all recognize that this is a production business. We understand that you are what your record says you are, but I also know that there's a lot of areas where this team has improved and we've got to continue to improve in those areas and other areas so that we're able to win football games and not come away and be disappointed.”
Or, worst-case scenario, unemployed.