After a promising start to the season, the Oakland Raiders have collapsed yet again. Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers leaves the Raiders 4-11, and Dennis Allen is reportedly in danger of losing his job after the season ends.
Allen wasn't expected to turn the Raiders into contenders this year, but he's failed to meet even limited expectations. Instead of showing progress throughout the season, the Raiders have regressed. The defense, which was supposed to be Allen's bread and butter, has given up at least 17 points to every opponent except for Jacksonville.
Next season, Oakland will have a lot of cap space for the first time in years, and it's looking more and more like they'll be starting fresh with a new coach. As things stand, here are the five candidates most likely to be Oakland's next head coach.
5. Jon Gruden
Gruden is the guy most Raiders fans want to see on the sidelines next year, and while there's a chance the Raiders land him for next season, it isn't very likely. While Gruden is open to a return to NFL coaching, he's going to be in high demand, and he'd take a more prominent position before he'd seriously consider the Raiders. While Reggie McKenzie has done a lot of things right since taking over as GM, it'll take a few years of stability before the Raiders will be a desirable destination for coaches and free agents.
4. Kevin Sumlin
The Texas A&M head coach recently signed a contract extension, but that doesn't rule him out - if the NFL comes calling, we've heard he'll listen. Sumlin's stock has fallen slightly after the Aggies went 8-4 in his second year in charge, but he's still being discussed as an option by a number of major NCAA programs and NFL teams. Sumlin brings a very different skill set than Dennis Allen - he's an offensive guru who connects well with players one on one. A young coach with room to improve, Sumlin would be a gamble, but Oakland won't reach the next level just by playing it safe.
3. David Shaw
After three immensely successful years at Stanford, Shaw is reportedly ready to move on. Whether that move keeps him in college football (Texas is reportedly a suitor) or brings him to the NFL, Shaw is a hot commodity, and Oakland will definitely be interested if they need to fill a head coaching vacancy in the next few months. Shaw will need time to adjust to the NFL, but his near-immediate success at Stanford proves he deals well with learning curves. Given the incredible respect he commands from his players at Stanford, it's hard to see the Raiders defense responding as poorly to Shaw as they are to Dennis Allen.
2. Jack Del Rio
Del Rio fits for a number of reasons. An East Bay native who grew up in Hayward, he has the swagger and style that old-school fans haven't seen since Al Davis was in his prime. The return of a black leather jacket to the Raiders sideline would make plenty of people happy, as would the opportunity to poach Denver's defensive coordinator. While Del Rio's record as a head coach isn't as impressive as Jon Gruden's, he's a more realistic candidate who would still command much more respect than Dennis Allen has so far. If Allen walks, keep an eye on Del Rio.
1. Ken Whisenhunt
The former Cardinals head coach has the most impressive resume out of any of the guys who Oakland could realistically land - not many Super Bowl winners are on the market. Whisenhunt wants another crack at a head coaching job, and Oakland will definitely be interested if/when there's a vacancy. Whisenhunt's tenure with the Cardinals was torpedoed by the failure to replace Kurt Warner at QB, and his main priority with the Raiders will be avoiding another Matt Leinart/Derek Anderson situation. If Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin isn't the answer, Whisenhunt will need to find the guy who is.