It’s hard to find a soldier desperately looking to defeat the enemy who would yell “incoming” before they toss a grenade…” – Mike Cardano circa today.
Tim Brown’s accusation of Bill Callahan is unthinkable. For those of you that have a life outside of sports and are currently unaware of the ongoing fire, consider the following: Callahan’s hiring as the Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys prompted Oakland Raiders great Tim Brown to state his belief in an interview that a late decision by former Raiders Head Coach Callahan to change the game plan prior to Super Bowl XXXVII hampered Oakland’s ability to beat the Buccaneers. Ok, so Callahan was outcoached and outsmarted buy Jon Gruden, you say. So what’s the big deal, that happens almost every Sunday in the league doesn’t it? Well maybe, but not the way Brown is putting it. The perennial Hall of Fame candidate is claiming sabotage and stating that Callahan created a situation where the Raiders could not win. In summary, he’s being accused of losing the Super Bowl on purpose to spite then Team Owner, Al Davis.
The basic premise here is that Gruden, who was Head Coach of the Raiders in 2001, hated Al Davis and wanted to leave. The following season Gruden left to coach the Buccaneers with Davis accepting $300,000 in compensation, however Davis refused to let any of Gruden’s coaches go with him. This, as the story goes, supposedly infuriated Callahan, who was the Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach for Gruden. Upon Gruden’s departure, Callahan was elevated to head coach and coincidentally the two squared off against each other on January 26, 2003 in Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The fact Callahan changed the game plan just 48 hours before the game is indisputable, every Raider player and coach agrees, but that by itself certainly doesn’t suggest sabotage. The Raiders, who had originally planned a ground and pound attack, ended up putting the ball in the air 44 times with just 11 rushes as Rich Gannon went 24/44 for 272-yards, 2 TD’s and 5 INT’s. One of the most damming things against Callahan is that he apparently did not change any of the language from the previous year and Gruden knew all of the audibles. In fact, Gruden was the creator of most of the language. If you watch the NFL Films account of the game you can both see and hear Bucs safety John Lynch on the sideline saying “It’s exactly like coach Gruden said it would be.” In fact, there have been numerous interviews done throughout the years with former Raiders offensive players claiming that Tampa Bay seemed to know every play that was coming.
On the surface, no matter what the circumstances, it would seem unthinkable that Callahan would coach every game up to the Super Bowl to win, and then coach that game to lose. Also, accusations that Gruden hated Al Davis for not letting him go to Tampa to be the offensive coordinator with Gruden seem odd, as his opportunity to become a head coach in the league was created by Gruden’s exodus. There are only 32 of those jobs and they are precious. Every assistant wants to be a head coach someday and if anything, Gruden’s gripe with Davis gave Callahan a shot to create his own legacy.
On the other hand, why would Callahan use audibles that Gruden knew? Many of these calls were plays that Gruden created himself. The fact that Oakland threw the ball 44 times and only ran 11 times can be explained away by the fact that the game was a blowout and Oakland needed to catch up. Tampa scored 48 points in the game and one could argue that the Raiders would have needed to throw the ball to have any chance of winning. The final was 48-21. No matter how you look at it though, whether the game plan was changed at the last minute or not, to use plays that the other team knew was coming does leave the topic open for questioning. At the NFL level, logic would dictate that this would be a pretty basic thing to avoid, even to those who don’t follow the game closely. It’s hard to find a soldier desperately looking to defeat the enemy who would yell “incoming” before they toss a grenade…
While this accusation does seem a bit farfetched, it’s certainly interesting that Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who was on that team, has come forward to say that Tim Brown is correct. To be fair, there are other former players on the team, notably quarterback Rich Ganno,n who while agreeing that the game plan was changed, do not agree that Callahan wanted, intended or tried to lose the game.
There’s no doubt that more players from that team and coaches who were on the staff will be asked about this accusation in detail going forward. One of the more interesting aspects of this was that Jim Harbaugh was a first year assistant on Callahan’s staff. You can expect Harbaugh’s media day to be filled with as many questions about the game plan from the Super Bowl 10-years ago as this year’s game…
Here’s a transcript of Tim Brown’s interview on Pro Football Talk where he makes the accusations.
Callahan of course has issued a statement denying the whole thing.
After going just 4-12 following the Super Bowl loss, Callahan was fired by the Raiders and left for the college ranks, becoming the head coach at Nebraska from 2004-2007. There he failed miserably, going 27-22 (that’s awful for Nebraska.) In 2008 he was hired as the Offensive Line Coach / Assistant Head Coach for the New York Jets and has now been hired as the Offensive Coordinator for the Cowboys with lots of questions to answer…
All I know is this. If I’m Bill Callahan, whether I tried to throw the game or not, it’s time to lawyer-up because my name has now been permanently smeared and there is absolutely no shot for me to ever get a head coaching gig in the league again. In fact, if this gets too far out of hand, I don’t see how he can possibly keep the Offensive Coordinator job he just received hours ago in Dallas.
I can’t possibly fathom a scenario where this accusation has merit; except it certainly seems to. OMG!