ALAMEDA -- There may be growing discontent within the Raiders fan base about rookie coach Dennis Allen, but he will have plenty of support Sunday on the opposite sideline.
Allen was on the New Orleans Saints staff under Sean Payton from 2006-10, working as an assistant defensive line coach for two seasons before moving to the secondary for the final three seasons.
The Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, and Allen moved on to become defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2011.
"I started coaching in the NFL in Atlanta, but I grew up in New Orleans," Allen said. "I've got a lot of good memories there, and we were able to win a championship. So it was a big part of my development as a coach."
One of the traits Allen admired with the Saints remains a problem in Oakland, where the Raiders are 3-6.
"The thing they do as well as anybody in the NFL is utilize their personnel," he said. "They know exactly what guys can do and put those in situations and let them do those things."
Coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, most recently under Hue Jackson, Raiders fans have opined on social media that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for new general manager Reggie McKenzie to turn to a first-time head coach.
"I understand that's part of the business," Allen said of the criticism. "My focus is on doing whatever I can to make this team better. That's all I can focus on."
Jackson overreached after the Raiders lost the 2011 season finale to San Diego and the AFC West title along with it, criticizing the team's performance and promising to be more active within the organization to get things turned around.
New Orleans interim coach Joe Vitt, in charge while Payton serves a one-year suspension in the Saints' bounty scandal, gave an impassioned defense of Allen in a conference call with Bay Area media.
"Dennis Allen is smart, Dennis Allen has great people skills," Vitt said. "Dennis Allen knows how to teach, motivate and inspire. Dennis Allen is not going to go off the cuff and off the reservation by saying or doing dumb things. He's going to get them better.''
As for Oakland's struggles under Allen, Vitt said, "The only reason D.A. was hired to be the coach at the Raiders is they wanted to go in a different direction and improve their football team, and as anyone knows, you're going to go through tough times your rookie season as a head coach."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees took notice of how Allen worked with and connected with the defensive backs and thought he'd be a climber.
"You knew he was on the fast track to be a head coach," Brees said by conference call. "I don't know if we saw it happening this fast."
Saints safety Roman Harper told reporters in New Orleans that he was the first to forecast Allen as a head coaching prospect.
"I was really the first that told him, I don't want to take credit, but you'll be a better defensive coordinator than you will be a D.B. coach. And he was a good D.B. coach," Harper said. "Lo and behold, the following year he's a defensive coordinator and now he's a head coach."
Said Raiders safety Matt Giordano, who played for the Saints in 2010: "Everyone knew he was fully capable of being a defensive coordinator or possibly a head coach. I was thankful just to have him that one year as my position coach."