Did Bill Callahan sabotage Super Bowl XXXVII? The jury is still out
There are two things that strike me as interesting about the claims of Oakland Raider legend Tim Brown that former Raider head coach Bill Callahan sabotaged Super Bowl XXXVII against Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One is that the media is just now making this a story. Savvy Raider fans have known that this has been Brown's assertion for the better part of a decade.
Need proof? Here is Brown at a Raider Mecca function at the team's headquarters in Alameda, California in 2008. This isn't a new claim, nor has it deviated one iota since Brown first spoke about it. For whatever reason, it is just now being made a story to the masses during this round of Super Bowl coverage.
Personally, having watched that game about 30 times since 2003, I have come to my own conclusion.
I honestly think Bill Callahan outsmarted himself. Everyone knew those Tampa teams were susceptible to power running. But the Raiders got to that Super Bowl by being a controlled passing team. I think the game plan started out well with a plan to hammer Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner against the Bucs' small front (Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, etc.). But I think Callahan got nervous about going against the formula that had worked all season, and reverted back to what got them there.
And in doing so, he did exactly what Gruden had his defense ready to stop.
In my estimation, this is an interesting story. But as a Raider fan, this is yet another in a long line of incidents that only proves just how dysfunctional Al Davis' organization was. On the eve of the team's biggest game in 19 years, only the Raiders could find themselves in a situation that led to confusion, chaos and near player mutiny.
This isn't like the Stanley Wilson incident from Super Bowl XXIII with the Cincinnati Bengals. This isn't like the Eugene Robinson incident from Super Bowl XXXIII with the Atlanta Falcons. The idea that a coach would completely alter a set game plan 48 hours from the biggest game he would ever coach, and that it would happen largely without making news or being noteworthy is something you would only be likely to believe with the Oakland Raiders.
My assertion has always been that Jon Gruden was not the singular change to the Oakland Raiders that many like to believe. It took Gruden and QB Rich Gannon to change some of the culture of dysfunction and undisciplined play that plagued the team in the 1990s.
But this accusation by Brown is proof that even after Oakland began to win in 2000, layers of dysfunction were still in the building.
Do you believe Super Bowl XXXVII was sabotaged?
The difference between what happened with those teams in 2000-2002, as opposed to 1995-1999 and then again in 2003 to the present has been simple: Those three years, the Raiders had enough elite talent and a system in place to win ball games. That was not the case during the other 15 years in Oakland.
And as much as some will hate me for saying this, you can point a big finger back to one man: Al Davis.
Yes, the same Al Davis that would drop a towel on the floor and wait for an employee to clean his shoes. The same Davis that fostered a team of "selfishness and a lack of cohesion" according to former Raider guard Greg Skrepenak.
Bottom line? The last 25 years showed that the Raiders won just as much in spite of Al Davis as because of him.
This has become apparent.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has the thankless task of wading through the salary cap muck Davis left upon his death in 2011. The process of turning the Raiders around is arduous. The culture of the Raiders has been so ingrained that unless you completely flip the roster, the remnants will remain.
This story from Tim Brown sounds implausible and objectively speaking, a bit like sour grapes. But that's until you realize that coming from the Raiders, there is nothing out of the realm of possibility.