OAKLAND -- Dennis Allen walked into the postgame news conference Monday night wearing little more than a grim expression under his clean white visor.
This was his first game as Raiders coach, his first game ever as a head coach, and he had hoped to impress. He had said his first goal was to win the game, a preseason game, which never matters in any sport but matters even less in the NFL.
So this 3-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys gnawed at him. This was a shutout, at home, at the Coliseum, before an announced crowd of 50,403.
Though he accepts it, somewhat assuaged by this being a mere exhibition, this is not how the new coach wanted to introduce himself to the Raider Nation.
"I thought the effort and intensity (were) pretty good," Allen said. "At times during the game we might have got a little tired, and the focus wasn't quite where it needs to be. But that's to be expected in a preseason game."
Allen acknowledged that the first-team defense played well, while conceding that the offensive execution was lacking.
This, though, is a team taking its first steps into a new era. There are terms to dictate and schemes to decipher and personalities to learn. There is chemistry to develop and body language to interpret.
All of this ultimately falls on Allen, who could walk away from this game with plenty of concerns while drawing no more than three conclusions.
One, that the cameo appearance of Darren McFadden was enough to pronounce the running back fully recovered from his foot injury and apparently game-ready. D-Mac can, and should, take a seat until the Sept. 10 season opener.
Two, that third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor can develop into a useful player -- though perhaps not at quarterback. He is a big, spectacular athlete with questionable judgment and severe accuracy issues. In the era of Tebow, Pryor is the kind of talent a resourceful coaching staff finds a way to utilize.
And, three, that wide receiver Jacoby Ford demands closer inspection.
After missing much of last season with nagging injuries -- and occasionally pouting over the final weeks -- Ford must earn the respect of the new staff. With starter Denarius Moore nursing a hamstring injury, Ford was given the start. He responded by dropping two passes, one of which was dramatically short-armed in anticipation of being hit. He also failed to aggressively pursue a Carson Palmer pass that wound up being intercepted.
Allen's instant analysis of the interception: Palmer threw toward the sideline, away from the safety, in hopes of giving his receiver a chance to "win."
Ford, um, surrendered.
The natural solution, should this problem not get solved, is the return of Moore, who last season developed tremendous chemistry with Palmer. Another potential solution is undrafted rookie wide receiver Rod Streater, who has impressed throughout training camp and torched the Cowboys for a game-high six catches for 66 yards.
"He doesn't play like a rookie," said backup quarterback Matt Leinart, who also earned a passing grade with six completions to Streater and by completing 11 of 16 passes overall for 98 yards.
For the most part, though, Oakland's debut under Allen was appropriate for a team undergoing not only a coaching change and a culture change but also a franchise overhaul. The Raiders at times looked solid, even terrific, and at other times were sloppy.
Though they probably missed more fine plays than they made, they were mediocre -- neither impressive nor depressive.
"We're not where we need to be," Allen said. "But I'm certainly not ready to hit any kind of panic button."
No real worries about kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who had a 47-yard field goal attempt blocked, for his holder was rookie punter Marquette King. Regular punter Shane Lechler, a Pro Bowl selection and Oakland's holder for more than a decade, eventually will return.
Meanwhile, two areas where the Raiders must improve acquitted themselves well. The Raiders showed an ability to stop the run, holding Dallas running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones to a combined 4 yards on four carries. And Oakland was hit with only five penalties for 37 yards.
Though this was not the auspicious beginning Allen wanted, glimpses of goodness came in some of the right places.
These games are strictly for the purpose of evaluation. The games that count start on Sept. 10 in Oakland. That's 27 days for Allen to prepare for his official introduction. That's the one that actually matters.