Tim Brown, Jerry Rice accuse Bill Callahan of throwing Super Bowl; Others disagree
The Oakland Raiders were crushed 48-21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego nearly 10 years ago. The game was one of the most lopsided in Super Bowl history, and now, almost 10 years later, accusations are surfacing that Bill Callahan may have thrown the big game.
The accusations first came from 9-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tim Brown. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice agreed with Brown, while other former Raiders disagree.
We’ll start with the comments made by Brown over the weekend on SiriusXM NFL radio, as shared by Pro Football Talk.
“We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we’re gonna run the ball,” Brown said Saturday. “We averaged 340 [pounds] on the offensive line, they averaged 280 [on the defensive line]. We’re all happy with that, everybody is excited. [We] tell Charlie Garner, ‘Look, you’re not gonna get too many carries, but at the end of the day we’re gonna get a victory. Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett, let’s get ready to blow this thing up.’”
According to Brown, Callahan then inexplicably changed the entire gameplan on Friday, two days before the big game. They went from planning a run-heavy attack to deciding to throw it 60 times. Brown called into question Callahan’s relationship with Jon Gruden when discussing the situation. Gruden was the coach of the Raiders from 1998-2001, so he was facing his former team in the Super Bowl in his first season with his new team.
“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said. “And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . . It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.
“But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game we changed our game plan. And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot. That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up.”
Not only did Brown suggest that Callahan may have sabotaged the team in the Super Bowl, he thinks the sudden change in gameplans may have led to center Barret Robbins’ bizarre behavior that week. Robbins, who was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was missing the day before the Super Bowl. He spent the day partying and drinking in Tijuana, Mexico (the Super Bowl was in nearby San Diego), and he was left off the roster for the game.
“Barret Robbins begged Coach Callahan, ‘Do not do this to me. I don’t have time to make my calls, to get my calls ready. You can’t do this to me on Friday. We haven’t practiced full speed, we can’t get this done.’”
Several former Raiders have addressed Brown’s comments. Jerry Rice agreed with Brown, while Charlie Garner confirmed some of Brown’s comments. Rich Gannon, Lincoln Kennedy, Bill Romanowski and Zack Crockett all disagreed.
“There may be something to what Mr. Brown has been saying,” Garner told 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly on Tuesday. “I really don’t know the validity of which he despised the Raiders but I also know that he didn’t want to be there, too.
“That week was all about running the football and we were going to play action off of that. We came out with another game plan and it just was not what we practiced … We as an organization and as a team had been through a lot of adversity so we were accustomed to it. Had we just stuck to the original game plan, I believe we would have been successful and it just wouldn’t have gotten away from us the way it did.”
Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, whom many consider to be the best football player of all time, agreed with Brown.
“For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me,” Rice said on ESPN, via Pro Football Talk. “In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”
Rice also supported Brown’s theory that the change in plans caused Robbins to freak out.
“With Barrett, he was frustrated, like, ‘You cannot do this to us at the last second.’ Maybe that’s why he decided to not show up.”
Rich Gannon, who developed into a Pro Bowler with the Raiders and was NFL MVP that season, completely disagreed with Brown’s theory. He said on his radio show on SiriusXM NFL Radio (audio here) that there were other non-sabotaging reasons that led to the Raiders losing the game badly.
Gannon points out that there was only one week between the conference championship game and Super Bowl unlike now when there is an extra week in between. He thinks the team may have been tired. He also believes that the Raiders were a passing team and that there was chatter during the week that running the ball was the best way to attack Tampa Bay’s undersized defensive line. However, after the team fell behind early in the game after attempting to run the ball, Gannon believes they reverted to the pass.
Gannon also touched on the problems with the team’s signals. This is what I had always heard was the biggest reason why the Raiders struggled to score in the game.
“So much of our verbiage and terminology was a carryover from what Jon Gruden had installed in terms of our run checks, and so we were calling certain plays and guys like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were calling out the runs,” Gannon said. “So it kind of took us out of our no-huddle plan at the line of scrimmage.”
Gannon further defended Callahan.
“He was a good football coach. I think he’s a good man. I don’t think he would ever intentionally (sabotage the team) because of a relationship with a former coach. There was too much in it for all of us. We had too much vested in trying to win a championship. We all wanted to win. I’m sure Callahan was one of them as well.”
Former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy disagreed with Brown. He pinned the team’s problems on the Bucs knowing their offensive terminology.
“I was trying to play over the scenario over and over in my head guys, I just can’t wrap my arms around it,” Kennedy told 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. “I can see why he felt that way, but I just can’t get behind it and say that I agree with it.”
Kennedy says he played his worst game ever in the Super Bowl. He thinks the Raiders’ failure to change signals was a problem.
“I honestly think the reason we lost the game the way we did is because Gruden gave them our complete playbook, our checks, they knew what we were doing,” Kennedy said. “They knew where we were going. That’s how they were able to have so many interceptions for touchdowns. Because honestly that was the difference in the football game.”
Kennedy confirmed they were planning to run the ball, but that they switched to passing the ball once they fell behind.
Fullback Zack Crockett vehemently disagreed with Brown and Rice.
“It’s not a reaction,” Crockett told CSN Bay Area Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just, impossible. Callahan’s a smart guy, a good coach.
“C’mon. C’mon, we know better than that.”
Crockett says Robbins’ disappearance really screwed up the team.
“You had a gameplan that had to be altered,” Crockett said. “You had an All-Pro center in Barrett Robbins going through what he went threw. He disappeared
“And when you have to take off a guy like Barrett Robbins, who was the centerpiece, it throws everything off…and then you put a guy in who hasn’t played all year and all he was was a longsnapper on punting and field goals, of course you’ve got to change the gameplan. We always had the mindset we were gong to run, but coach had to change. But in the end, it was shocking to him as well.”
Linebacker Bill Romanowski, who is often outspoken, says Brown’s accusations couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” Romanowski told Tony Bruno and Jon Marks of 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia Tuesday.
Romanowski questioned Brown’s motives for the comments.
“Is he trying to be relevant for the Super Bowl? What is he trying to do? He absolutely couldn’t be further from the truth. So you’re saying that a man has a chance to cement himself in history with winning a Super Bowl and he wants to hand it over to his buddy? Give me a break, OK? It couldn’t be further from the truth. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And I’ll tell you what, I’m blown away that something like that would come out of an intelligent man’s mouth.”
We disagree with Brown and Rice and find their comments to be offensive. I cannot imagine a coach ever throwing a Super Bowl. The upside of winning a championship is so much greater for a coach than losing one. Why would anyone do that? I think the statements from Kennedy and Gannon explain everything. The team got behind and abandoned their gameplan. And the biggest reason they lost so badly is because Tampa Bay knew their offensive calls.
I think this is a case of Brown and Rice feeling like Callahan did a bad job with his coaching that week and calling it sabotaging when, in reality, it was probably just a bad job of coaching.