ALAMEDA Now let's see how good Dennis Allen really is.
It took an offseason, a full training camp, three victories and five losses for the first-year Raiders coach to get here.
It involved dealing with injuries and trying to answer a lot of typical Raiders questions after typical Raiders defeats, just like Sunday's 42-32 humbling defeat to Tampa Bay.
It took all that to prove two things about Allen's fledgling reign:
He already has established more stability and accountability than Art Shell, Lane Kiffin and Norv Turner did in their early doomed days as Raiders coaches.
No question, things could have gone off the rails right away this year when the Raiders opened in a stagger.
But the 1-3 start was followed by a strong performance in a loss at Atlanta and two consecutive victories before Sunday's home loss to the Buccaneers.
It's a low bar, but Allen is showing he won't be another fast-fizzle Raiders coaching debacle.
Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie have laid a lot of the foundation, and now the actual coaching stuff really begins.
It's an important stage for any Raiders coach because so many never get there and where NFL games are often won and lost.
And giving up 251 rushing yards to Tampa Bay tailback Doug Martin, in a loss that dropped the Raiders to 3-5 at the halfway point, wasn't a good way to set this up.
But this is what normal teams go through during the normal building process.
The Raiders are trying to be a normal, rational team for the first time in decades, and Allen is trying to be their normal, rational leader.
"We're not going to close our eyes and act like we don't see things that are happening," Allen said Monday, specifically about struggling right tackle Willie Smith but generally about everybody in Silver and Black. "We're going to try to address whatever needs to be addressed."
The health of tailbacks Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson (both day-to-day with high ankle sprains) and a slew of others will obviously play into all this. After years of decay, the Raiders' roster isn't nearly deep enough to withstand a series of high-impact injuries.
And McKenzie's patchwork surely won't be enough to get this team into true playoff contention with several tough games coming up, including Sunday at Baltimore.
But the next realistic move depends on Allen and his staff: Show that the Raiders can play competitive football week in and week out.
Can they grind out plays and quarters and games and maybe grind out three or four victories over the last two months? The Raiders have done some intermittent grinding in the first eight games but have gotten regularly whomped in the third quarter.
"Listen, it hurts," Allen said of watching Martin race through his defense time and again in the second half Sunday. "It hurts. But there are things that we've got to get corrected.
"At the end of the day, their guy made the play and we didn't."
There's the point: Can Allen fix the big problems the run defense, the issues in the secondary and the run offense?
If Allen can strategize and motivate this team into a decent new place, he'll be the first Raiders coach to really start solving things since Jon Gruden.
Of course, all previous Raiders coaches since 1963 worked under the auspices of Al Davis, which was an entirely different and trickier proposition.
Last year, Hue Jackson got a brief chance to work without Davis and did some very positive things, especially with the offense.
But the times were so chaotic in the transition and Jackson's personality was so overbearing that once McKenzie arrived, Jackson never got a true chance to flunk or pass this test.
And now Allen is coming up on that early threshold, after surviving the start.
"Every day we're learning a little bit more about this team," Allen said.
At this point, Allen doesn't have to be Gruden, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin or Jim Harbaugh, necessarily.
It's too early to tell for any of that, anyway. McKenzie needs a few more years to stock this roster, and the Raiders need to weed out all of the underperformers.
But Allen has to show he is capable, that he can coach at the same steady level as John Fox, Mike Smith or John Harbaugh.
And he has to be better than Jason Garrett, Romeo Crennel or, yes, Turner.
Allen has gotten past the first Raiders stage, which is usually the toughest. Now all he has to do is coach.