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Sparano Introduced as Interim Head Coach

Posted Sep 30, 2014

General Manager Reggie McKenzie introduced Tony Sparano as the Raiders Interim Head Coach at press conference Tuesda afternoon.

Reggie McKenzie Opening Statement: “Good afternoon, guys. Sorry for the short delay. I had to let Coach Sparano kind of finish up some meetings upstairs, so sorry about that. I want to first talk about the release of Dennis Allen. I just want to let you know that [it] did happen late yesterday and I had a good talk with Dennis in that regard. I just want to say that I appreciate everything he’s done. He worked hard, very diligent, but I had to make the move and did that yesterday. Now, moving forward, I’m excited to bring before you a new interim head coach, Tony Sparano. I’m excited about the experience he brings, the leadership he brings, the passion that he brings to get this organization, a great organization, to what we need to do and that’s win. I’m going to turn this over at this point to Tony Sparano, the Raiders’ interim head coach.”

Tony Sparano Opening Statement: “Thank you. Thank you, Reg. I appreciate that. I want to start, first of all, if I can, by saying to you that this is obviously a bittersweet moment for me right now in that a great friend of mine and person I respect a great deal in Dennis Allen was let go. That’s unfortunately part of our business, but this is the situation that we’re in right now. I do want to say that because I respect the man tremendously and he’s an outstanding football coach and an outstanding human being. I love him and respect him a lot.

“I’m excited moving forward right now. Busy, but excited. A lot busier today than I was last week at this time. I’m very excited about where we’re going right now and what we’re trying to do. Luckily we have a bye week. We’ve got a little bit of time right now. We’ve got time to be able to get some things accomplished here and take a long look at our football team right now, which is really what the bye week is for. Back in the past, maybe can get better at a lot of things, but now with the rules being what the rules are, you’ve got to look at yourselves long and hard and that’s what we’re going to spend some time doing here in the next several days. We’ll plot a course and push ahead here, visit with the players tomorrow and then they’ll be off and we’ll get ourselves ready to go here as coaches. So there are a lot of things that we have to do, but obviously I’m very, very excited. I’ve been excited since the first day I walked in this building when I was hired here to be part of the Raiders organization and the Raiders history. This is just a great opportunity for me moving forward here and for our football team at this point in time. [I’m] just really excited about the opportunity and I thank Reggie and [Owner] Mark Davis for having the trust and the faith in me to be able to do this in this situation, because obviously it’s not an ideal time, but we’ll go make it that way.”

Q: After an 0-4 start, do you think the Raiders can finish this season with a respectable record? Mr. McKenzie, part two: Do you regret bringing Dennis Allen back for a third season?

McKenzie: “First of all, we’re here first and foremost in the Raider organization to win championships. In order to do that, you have to win games, period. The start of this season was not the way we wanted to go. Now, regrets? Not at all. Going into this offseason, we had a plan and after these first four games, that plan did not materialize.”

Sparano: “From my end, the goal from Day 1 and the objective set forward here was not to win games, it was to win championships and to put ourselves in a position to do that. The only way I know how to do that is in order to be able to do that, you’ve got to get yourself into the tournament. And that looks like it’s far away. It looks like it’s a big mountain to climb right now. We’ve put ourselves in a position [where] that’s pretty hard. Obviously, not ideal, but doable? Yeah, everything is doable. It really is. I’ve been part of those turnarounds before and I have the utmost confidence in our players here and our coaches here that we can get this thing turned around. I really do. The answer to your question is yet.”

Q: How much change can you affect with the rest of the staff remaining intact? Is there a plan as far as play calling on offense? Will that change and overall how much can change with the rest of the staff still here?

Sparano: “Well, I think things can change with philosophies. Again, I respect Dennis Allen tremendously, but I’m not Dennis, Dennis is not me and so on and so forth. Things can change with philosophies and that will be the case. We will have a different philosophy. I don’t need to share that right now, maybe share it with the players tomorrow. But that being said, I think that as far as play-calling duties, any of those things, we’re going through that right now with coaches. I have no real issue with those people calling plays right now.”

Q: Reggie, it’s always been clear that Dennis Allen was your guy. Mark Davis has made it clear that you were his guy. Now that Allen has been fired after an 0-4 start, how much of this is your failure?

McKenzie: “A lot of it rides on me. I brought Dennis in to win championships here and to win, period. That did not materialize. The way this season began through these first four games, we had to make a change. That falls on me.”

Q: Coach, with you being an offensive guy and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver still here, why should Raider fans expect the defense to change or get better?

Sparano: “Well I think one of the things is that, again, yes I’m an offensive guy, but my background as a head coach before has forced me to learn the defensive side of the ball and know the defensive side of the ball so it’s not something that is foreign to me in any stretch of the imagination. And, philosophies are different. People have different philosophies and we know at this point and time that we are in the evaluation stage at this point and time of what we’ve done well and what we need to do well and what we’re not doing well. So, we’ll go back up there and we’ll talk about those things. We need to make sure that we’re asking our football players here, as coaches, to do the things that they do best. We have some good football players here, a lot of them. They do a lot of good things, but we need to let them do what they do best. That’s going to be a big part of my push going forward. Make no mistake about it, Reggie was just asked the question, we’re all responsible. This isn’t one man’s responsibility, we’re all responsible. We all had a hand in this. It’s a shame it came to this, but it did, so now we have to move forward. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this business, so it’s time for us to move forward. We’ll move forward and we’ll continue to get better and things will change and our football team will get better.”

Q: Reggie, do you believe that the roster you put together this offseason is good enough to win in the NFL, and if so, why did it not work with Dennis Allen?

McKenzie: “Well first of all, yes I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win. I’m not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn’t work for Dennis, but the bottom line is it didn’t work, for whatever reason. Not only the 0-4 start, but our play, it did not represent what we were capable of and that’s the bottom line.”

Q: Reggie, you said that you called Dennis Allen last night to relieve him of his position. Was that a decision solely on your part, a mutual decision between you and Mark Davis, or Mark Davis’ decision to you?

McKenzie: “It’s my decision. It’s my job to make those decisions, like with every decision that I make, whether it’s signing a player, drafting the players, I always talk to my boss, ‘This is what I want to do.’ That’s what you do in this business. I let Mark Davis know what I wanted to do and then that’s when I went ahead and made the decision.”

Q: What are some things that you want to change first? With the injuries Derek Carr sustained, are you looking outside to bring in a quarterback or bring back Matt Schaub?

Sparano: “Obviously right now we haven’t had any time to sit down since we returned from London and talk with our team. So, as far as, for myself, just getting in here this morning and going through this, we have not really sat down and communicated what some of these changes might be, but in any situation that doesn’t start well, change needs to be made. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and over again and expect a different result. That’s got a different definition to it in my book. At the end of this thing, we need to make some changes and we’re going to go through those changes with the players first, I’m going to share those with them and make sure that I do that the proper way first. As far as Derek [Carr] goes, any of those things, I have not had time right now to sit down and visit with our training people and that’s something that we’re going to sit down and talk about this afternoon. Reggie, myself and the trainers, sit down and visit with them and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Q: When your defense is on the field and you’re on the sidelines handling your head coaching duties, who will be talking to the offensive line and discussing run blocking schemes and pass protection?

Sparano: “We’re going to go through some of that right now, but I have a couple different thoughts in mind. I haven’t shared those with my coaches yet, but I’m going to make sure that I handle that responsibility first and then get to the sideline as quick as I possibly can because there is game management things that have to go on during the course of the game as well, the use of timeouts, where we are, that way, and clock management and all those things, but we have a couple different people on our staff here that can handle those corrections. As long as our headsets are up and moving and we can get the information passed, it’s pretty seamless that way.”

Q: Did you speak directly to Mark Davis today, and if so, what were the expectations and could you characterize that conversation? You were known for the turnaround you orchestrated in Miami. What similarities do you see here, what did you do there to turn around a 1-15 team and can you do that here?

Sparano: “To answer the first part of your question, yes, I did meet with Mark this morning. Actually, not too long ago here, and we visited, had a really good visit this afternoon, talked about a lot of issues that stayed between Mark and myself. But, it was a good, positive, healthy conversation, and that’s important to me, it really is. It’s important that we have those kind of conversations. It’s important that we have those kind of conversations going forward. What does he want? He wants results, he wants to win. I don’t blame him. I mean, we all want that. We want to win. This is a result-oriented business. At the end of this thing we’re evaluated that way. We have to win, and that’s what he wants. He’s passionate about his football team, passionate about his fan base and he wants to win. I was happy to have that time with him, because I really haven’t had that kind of time with him since I’ve been here, and that was really helpful to me. As far as the Miami situation, this is the Oakland Raiders and I’m an Oakland Raider. I have that experience to draw upon. I have the experience in several situations where we walked into not ideal situations. When I was with Bill Parcels and we went into Dallas, that wasn’t a very good situation and we won 10 football games there. Obviously, the Miami situation wasn’t a very good situation and we won 11 football games. There was a couple times in Miami where I didn’t start very good, but we finished pretty well. Marty Schottenheimer, we were 0-5 and finished 8-8 in Washington. So, I’ve been part of this, I’ve seen it happen before and I understand how it happens. I do understand the buttons to push. All that being said, you’ve got to have people that are in this room that will be in here tomorrow that are willing to understand that and buy into it. I believe we have the right players here, I really do. That’s something that we’re going to work hard at, but as far as the past, I’m not interested. I don’t say this to be callous, I really don’t. I don’t want to get off on that foot, but I’m not saying it that way, I just, I’m an Oakland Raider and we’re talking about what’s going to happen tomorrow not what happened several years ago, and proud to be that.”

Q: Reggie, obviously you have a new coach there, but he is an interim. Does the coaching search begin immediately, and will you hire the next coach?

McKenzie: “First I’ll answer, yes I’m going to hire the next coach. Now, who that is, I’m focused on today. I’m focused on our next game and I’m focused on Coach Sparano. That’s what I’m about right now. I want to win this next game and that’s what I’m looking at now. As far as coaching search and all that, I’ll leave that up until later. I’ll revisit that, but right now, all my focus is on the Oakland Raiders right now, being led by Coach Sparano.”

Q: Reggie, in the grand scheme of things, how much has this 0-4 start the firing of the coach set the Raiders back? Or has it set it back at all?

McKenzie: “0-4 is 0-4. Whether it’s a set back or not, it’s 0-4. I want to get off of that 0-record. I want to win some games, alright? That’s where we are now. It’s time to get this thing right and start moving in the right direction that we should be in to. That’s where we’re headed. 0-4, that’s not what we want. We’re going to get this thing straight.”

Q: Tony, what do you think is the biggest problem with this Raiders football team right now?

Sparano: “Honestly, I don’t mind answering that question and I don’t mind them hearing it before I tell it to them. I think the biggest problem right now is that they have forgotten how to win. You can fall into that trap. There’s plenty of excuses out there right now, a lot of them. I say this with all due respect, you guys will have them lined up a mile long. There are a lot of excuses out there. We’re not going to use those excuses. As soon as we taste, and we will taste, what it feels like to win, that’s how change happens. There are a lot of teams in this league that are front-running teams. They taste it a little bit and then they want more and want more and want more. Our guys need to taste that. I think that’s probably the biggest problem. They played their hearts out two weeks ago at New England and we came up short. We didn’t win. That’s the kind of game that we need to be able to win. We need to win one of those kinds of games and see that snowball and turn things around. That’s what I’ve been a part of. I know it’s possible. It’s something that we’re going to work real hard to get done here.”

Q: Reggie, after the team went 4-12 for two seasons, at what point did it become a sense of urgency?

McKenzie: “Going 4-12, this past offseason, our focus was getting better. Getting better personnel-wise and trying to add the right kinds of players. We feel like we did that. Now going 0-4, the way we went 0-4, it was time to make a change. Whether it was in London, it doesn’t matter. It was time. To answer your question, the thoughts started to come at that point.”

Q: Reggie, did any of your conversations with Mark indicate what you’ll need to do to keep your job status to ensure that you will be the next general manager?

McKenzie: “Conversations with me and Mark are focused on the here and now; trying to get this team headed in the right direction, headed in the right way. As far as my job, we’re not talking about that.”

Q: You said you had a good conversation with Dennis Allen. What was his reaction?

McKenzie: “Obviously disappointed. Disappointed that he didn’t get it done. He’s prideful that way. That was my pick, I picked him. There was some disappointment there.”

Q: What was the process like, bringing Tony in? Did you interview any other candidates?

McKenzie: “No. My intention was to talk to Coach Sparano and make sure we were on the same wavelength. He was hired as the assistant head coach for a reason. I just want to make sure his focus was in line with what my thoughts were.”

Q: Is coaching, in your opinion, the main reason why the Raiders are winless right now?

McKenzie: “No, you can’t put it on one thing. It’s a lot. That’s from the top down, from me on down to everyone. Practice squad players, everyone, we all have to get better. That’s what our focus is on right now, each day. I think Coach Sparano is the man to help us with that.”

Q: Reggie, just to follow up on a couple of your answers. When you say that you are going to be the guy hiring the next coach, is that your belief or has Mark told you that?

McKenzie: “Like I said before, I am not going to get into me down the line. It’s not about what I’m going to do in the future. My job is to lead this team, look for the next interim head coach, look for our coach for the future. I’m going to continue to do that unless I’m told otherwise.”

Q: Do you believe your job is on the line in the final 12 games?

McKenzie: “I always believe that. Until I am winning, until I am playing in the championship, I’m going to always bust my tail until I get to that championship, period. I work every day like my job is on the line. That’s just the way I am. No one has to tell me my job is on the line. No one.”