First off, before we start dissecting statements and allegations, every NFL fan who was braced for incessant discussion about some variation of the Harbaaaugghhhhowl, needs to offer a large amount of thanks to Tim Brown for his astonishing accusation that Raiders coach Bill Callahan purposely tanked the 2002 (played in ’03) Super Bowl like it was some catty small town high school game of revenge.
If not for Brown’s statement, we’d probably have which brother wore which superhero underpants to pass this week without an NFL game.
Tim Brown (an ex-Notre Damer, who wasn’t ready to have a soon-to-be alumnus hog that Irish spotlight) has managed to keep the NFL newscycle in high gear, in what’s typically the only slow week of news around the league from training camp until the last whistle of the Super Bowl.
So again, thank you Tim. I hope you get your mustard colored sports coat.
Brown didn’t really say what I think he said, did he? His coach just hit the deck by a southpaw jab to the chin in round one in the biggest annual sporting event this side of the planet!? Just to spite the Raiders (which usually means Al Davis), and to help his friend, and opposing coach in the game, Jon Gruden?
OK, I’m not a conspiracy THEORIST, however, I do enjoy nonchalantly twisting my neck, and out of the corner of my eye, peaking up the in sky for the black helicopters. I like to investigate, I like to disprove. In other words, let me at least check this out to the means I have available. Which is in this case we head to the box scores and the stats, and review some quotes!
Brown says Callahan wanted to pound a smaller Buccaneers defense with a heavy run game led by a massive offensive line. Then at the end of the week Callahan flipped the script and said, nope, we’re gonna throw it 60 times.
Throwing it that much wasn’t out of character for the 2002 Raiders. Watching the mostly inept Raiders these days, it’s hard to imagine any Raiders team being explosive. But that unit, engineered by Rich Gannon was quite a marvel. They were second in the league in scoring (points for you if you know who led the NFL, think about your fantasy team, think a religous Sherlock), they led the league in offense and threw for twenty more yards per game than St. Louis, which was still an effective twilight for The Greatest Show on Turf.
Now that we’ve established that Raiders could definitely air it out, was it the wise strategem for the Super Bowl? One stat tells me no f^&king way. And no again. And one more no f$%king way after that. Even though the Raiders were just 18th in the league in rushing that season – so that wasn’t necessarily a strength for them – chucking the ball all over the field in the Super Bowl against the league’s number one ranked defense was extremely unwise. But perhaps the Raiders wanted to enter battle with their sharpest sword.
You recall some of the names from that Buccaneers defense, right? Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and John Lynch. That defense was nearly inpenetrable through the air, allowing barely over a field and a half – 155 yards per game. That’s thirty yards less than the Panthers who were second against the pass that season.
Could the Raiders have stayed on the ground and had success? Tampa’s defensive unit was 5th against the run, allowing 97 yards per game.
If I were to pick my poison – and I know NFL coaches and players can be moronically stubborn – I think I would’ve sat down in the electric with Raider backs Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley, and hoped their bludgeoning of the Bucs defense would’ve forced the power to go out. Stay of execution. Possibly a Super Bowl victory.
OK, but now we’re getting to what I really wanted to pick through psychologically.
There’s a theory out there that the always domineering and constantly invasive Al Davis is the one who modified the game plan, not Callahan. Because of his oppressive reputation, I think that’s awfully plausible. Davis wants another Super Bowl and he wants it won HIS way.
Let’s delve into the mind of how Callahan would handle that.
If you’re Callahan and you despise your employer – we’ve all been in that position before, so think along with me – and I’m on the doorstep of having the words SUPER BOWL WINNING COACH before my name for the rest of eternity, I’m completely disregarding Davis’ orders. Maybe Callahan called on his best Daniel Kaffee ‘did you ever think the old man was just WRONG!?’ Perhaps he thought, yes. This way, I (Callahan) get to raise my middle finger to him (and what disgruntled employee doesn’t want to do that) AND I get to utilize the strategy that I think gives us the best chance to win the Super Bowl. If we win, then he can publically reprimand, then fire me for insubordination, but meanwhile, I get my choice of jobs because I suppressed my stubbornness and went with an uncharacteristic game plan to win the Super Bowl.
Go ahead. Fire me.
On the other hand, and we’re still thinking like disgruntled employees here, Davis tells Callahan, you’re gonna throw and you’re gonna a lot. End of story.
Callahan meekly says OK, and thinks to himself, this thing is gonna go down in flames Sunday evening. Which it did.
So now, Callahan is justified and has his revenge. But it’s a private feeling of delight knowing Davis’ planned aerial assault failed. And it failed miserably. New Coke all over again.
Privately Callahan is ecstatic, but even now, with Davis gone, I’d be stunned if Callahan came out and pinned the failed strategical adjustment on Davis. Davis as a pioneer in the game, even with his personality flaws, was revered after his passing. Callahan can’t come out now and smear that image. Can he? Would he? Even if it were true?
When it comes down to it, if I disliked my employer THAT much and had gasoline and a match, prepared to burn a bridge, I’m going with my coaching acumen, experience and instinct – maybe we win – and if he wants to fire me, go ahead.
Maybe I (Bill Callahan) am a Super Bowl head coach. There’s not many of those.