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January 22, 2013 / Tom Liberman

Raiders Coach Intentionally Lost Super Bowl?

Oakland RaidersThere is an absolutely astonishing story making the rounds in the weeks before this year’s Super Bowl and it is so crazy that I’m not sure what to believe. I’ll give you the details but I think it’s going to be weeks before we can sort this out, if ever.

A former wide receiver for the Raiders, Tim Brown, has accused the coach of taking intentionally damaging actions in the hopes of losing the 2002 Super Bowl. What, what, what? That’s crazy. Intentionally losing the Super Bowl? What possible reason could there be for something like that? It boggles the mind. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As a rational thinker, my first reaction is: That can’t possibly be accurate.

To the evidence!

Super Bowl XXXVII (37, I do wish they’d just quit with the roman numerals already) took place in January of 2003 with the Oakland Raiders facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s coach was John Gruden who left those self-same Raiders just a year before to take the job. He had been the Raider’s coach for four season and left in, amazingly enough, a trade with Tampa Bay. The Raider’s got two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million in cash for their coach!

In any case, the man who replaced Gruden was Bill Callahan and the two teams met in the 2002 Super Bowl only a year after the trade. It is the suggestion of Brown that Callahan despised the Raiders and wanted to lose the game. His main piece of evidence of this is that the team practiced a running attack in the week before the game but on Friday, two days before the game and with no full-speed practices left, Callahan completely changed the game-plan.

This change resulted in the already unstable center of the Raiders, Barret Robbins, freaking out and begging Callahan not to make such a radical change without a single practice to work on the new scheme. It is an absolute fact that Robbins disappeared before the Super Bowl and was only found later in Mexico. Barret had alcohol and drug problems but this does seem to jibe with Brown’s story.

Jerry Rice, yes, the Jerry Rice, confirms that the game-plan was completely changed on the Friday before the game. Certainly in the game the Raiders relied heavily on their top-rated pass offense and barely ran the ball at all, eleven times which includes two passes where quarterback Rich Gannon was chased out of the pocket and forced to run. However, the Buccaneers took an early lead in the game and this might have forced the Raiders into a passing game. Still, if Jerry Rice tells me the entire game-plan was changed on Friday then I’m going to believe him.

Now, another Raider, fullback Zach Crockett remembers that the game-plan only changed after Robbins fled the team and couldn’t be found. It does seem clear that almost everyone agrees the game-plan changed dramatically two days before the game and with no time to practice. This is something that’s hard to fathom. Crockett’s explanation makes no sense to me. If you lost the starting center it’s even crazier to change the plan. The backup is less likely to be able to adjust than the starter.

Brown also claims that Callahan hated the Raiders. He hated the team he coached? Is that possible? There is no evidence so far that I’ve seen as to why Callahan would hate his own team although there is a suggestion that he was loyal to Gruden and wanted his old coach to win. That seems seriously far-fetched and I’ve seen little evidence to support this.

Later in Callahan’s tenure with the Raiders, Charles Woodson had some harsh words for the coach.

Certainly Callahan is not well-liked in Nebraska where he coached for four moderately successful seasons. For those of you unfamiliar with Nebraska football, moderately successful is pretty bad.

Meanwhile Raider’s quarterback Rich Gannon is more circumspect claiming that the game-plan change came not before the game but during the game when the running attack proved ineffective.

Another possibility is that the Raider’s mercurial owner, Al Davis, ordered the game-plan change and forced it on Callahan. No one  has any evidence to this being the case but it does have the ring of truth about it in regards to Davis.

Holy Cow! What’s a fellow to believe?

For the moment I’m going with the idea I stated earlier, that if you’re going to make astounding claims it requires hard evidence. I certainly see some evidence as to what Tim Brown is saying but not enough for me to believe that the coach intentionally sabotaged his own team. That’s just too much. I eagerly await further evidence from the players on the team in question.

I’m going to poll this one. Tell me what you think in the poll and in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

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