‘Sabotage-Gate’ steals Super Bowl thunder
The New York Times | January 24,2013
AP File Photo
Former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan denied allegations made by two of his former players that he “sabotaged” the Raiders in their Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay 10 years ago.
The game was played 10 years ago, but Tuesday, the Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders was at the center of a stunning accusation, briefly supplanting the game that will be played in less than two weeks as the talk of the NFL.
Tim Brown, a former Raiders receiver, alleged in a radio interview Saturday that Raiders coach Bill Callahan purposefully “sabotaged” the team by changing the game plan just a few days before the game. The Raiders were trounced, 48-21, by the Buccaneers, who had one of the best defenses in NFL history.
Callahan, who now works for the Dallas Cowboys, denied the accusation in statement Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported. Callahan said he was “shocked and saddened” by the accusation and said he always tried to win every game.
In an interview Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Brown said the original game plan given to the team the Monday before the Super Bowl called for a run-heavy offensive attack, designed to take advantage of the Raiders’ size advantage on the offensive line.
But Brown said Callahan stunned the team by changing the game plan to a pass-heavy approach — Brown said Callahan wanted to throw it 60 times — on the Friday before the game.
Why? Brown claimed Callahan so hated the organization for which he worked that he wanted coach Jon Gruden, who had left the Raiders for the Buccaneers after the previous season, to win the game instead.
Brown was essentially accusing Callahan of trying to lose the game.
‘’We all called it sabotage,” Brown said in the interview, adding, “because Callahan and Gruden were good friends.”
Brown went on: “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.”
On Tuesday, Jerry Rice, who was a teammate of Brown’s on that Raiders team, backed Brown’s account, telling ESPN, “Why would you wait to the last second to change the game plan?”
In a later radio interview in Dallas, Brown seemed to backtrack a bit, saying he was only expressing his opinion, but he said that Callahan’s close relationship with Gruden and his disdain for the Raiders’ organization allowed people to reach the conclusion that Callahan might have lost the Super Bowl intentionally.
Brown also said that he had been suggesting for years that Callahan tried to lose the game.
The statistics from the game do not clear up the matter. The Raiders rushed only 11 times, and they attempted 44 passes. That was not an unusual figure for a team that trailed by 20-3 at halftime and one that averaged almost 39 pass attempts a game that season, and finished with the most passing yards in the league.
Rich Gannon, the Raiders’ quarterback that season, said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he believed that Callahan wanted to win. And he said the ease of Tampa Bay’s win stemmed from the Raiders having not changed much of the offensive play calls after Gruden left.
‘’In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this: He was a good football coach; he was a good man,” Gannon said Tuesday. “We all wanted to win.”
He added: “So much of our verbiage and terminology was a carry-over 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. So it kind of took us out of our no-huddle plan at the line of scrimmage.”