According to receiver Tim Brown, Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers thrashed the Raiders, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 because Oakland was “sabotaged” by Bill Callahan, the team’s head coach at the time, who changed the game plan at the last minute.
Brown’s comments to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Saturday were earlier reported by ProFootballTalk.com.
Brown said that when the Raiders got the game plan on the Monday before the Super Bowl in January 2003, it was a run-heavy attack taking advantage of Oakland’s size advantage on the offensive line. However, Brown said Callahan scrapped the plan on Friday to the shock of the team.
“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and Gruden were good friends. 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.”
Gruden had been the head coach of the Raiders from 1998-2001, and Callahan was his offensive coordinator. When Gruden moved on to Tampa for the 2002 season, Callahan was made head coach.
Jerry Rice, the Raiders’ other starting receiver in the Super Bowl, backed Brown in comments to ESPN’s “NFL Live”. He said the players found it “very unusual” to change everything at the last minute.
Rice said the Raiders’ game plan did change on the Friday before the Super Bowl and the team was surprised by that, “because you worked all week long on running the football.”
Callahan, now an offensive line coach for the Cowboys, called the allegations ‘‘ludicrous and defamatory’’ in a statement Tuesday night.
‘‘While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last 24 hours,’’ Callahan said in the statement. ‘‘To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations.’’
Brown tried to backtrack some from the word “sabotage” Tuesday in an interview on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM but still implied the facts of the situation leave many questions about Callahan’s loyalty at the time to the Raiders.
“I don’t think he would have sabotaged the Super Bowl but . . . this is the problem we have, because of his relationship with Gruden, because of his disdain for the Raider organization, that’s what makes people get to that conclusion,” Brown said.
Brown said center Barret Robbins, who disappeared from the team in the days before the game and did not play, begged Callahan not to change the game plan.
“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,’ '’ Brown said.
Brown wouldn’t blame Robbins’s absence from the team on Callahan’s decision, however. Brown said “everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway” but the team couldn’t fathom why Callahan would change plans so late.
Bill Romanowski, a linebacker on that Raiders team, blasted Brown.
“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? It couldn’t be further from the truth. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m blown away that something like that would come out of an intelligent man’s mouth,” he said in an interview with a Philadelphia radio station.
Former Raiders offensive lineman Frank Middleton said he didn’t believe Callahan purposely lost the game even if there were bad feelings between the coach and players.
‘‘Callahan hated us,’’ Middleton said. ‘‘He didn’t want to see a lot of us succeed because of who we were. I do believe Callahan had bad feelings against us. But to say he threw the game, I can’t say that.’’
Sean Payton is back as coach of the Saints. Payton’s season-long suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty program was lifted by commissioner Roger Goodell, nearly two weeks earlier than expected. The decision allows Payton to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday, where some of the top college players available for the NFL draft will be competing. ‘‘I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations,’’ Payton said in a statement. ‘‘Furthermore, I have assured the commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed.” . . . Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is indicating that Jason Garrett will no longer call the plays on offense and said his coach is on board with such a change. Jones said Callahan could inherit play-calling duties but stopped short of saying a decision had been made . . . Jets coach Rex Ryan was uninjured in a three-car accident in Bethlehem, Pa., on Jan. 14, the team confirmed. Ryan was issued a warning and no citation, a team spokesman said.
Hiring proposal made
After minority candidates were shut out by NFL teams for 15 top jobs, the Fritz Pollard Alliance wants the Rooney Rule to include coordinators, assistant head coaches, and club president positions.
The proposal sent to league executives came a week after no minorities were hired for eight coaching vacancies and seven general manager openings. There are only four minority head coaches going into the 2013 season, the fewest since 2003.
In a letter to Robert Gulliver and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president and general counsel, the alliance said: ‘‘We believe pipeline issues are a part of the reason we’ve seen a reduction in head coaches of color over the past few years, and this expansion will diversify the head coaching pipeline.’’
Pro Bowl fate on line
The NFL is hoping to decide the fate of the Pro Bowl by the time it releases next season’s schedule in April. And the fate of the league’s all-star game will largely depend on how much effort this year’s Pro Bowlers put into the game. Goodell nearly canceled the game after uninspiring play last year, but it will be held Sunday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu . . . Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning will get a chance to be teammates after all — at Sunday’s Pro Bowl. Luck earned his way to the game when the Patriots’ Tom Brady pulled out with an undisclosed injury . . . Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was added to the NFC team as an injury replacement for Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons . . . ’’ . . . Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner has retired as receivers coach for the Chargers. Joiner, 65, spent 44 years in the NFL as a player and coach, including 21 with the Chargers . . . New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has hired Joe Cullen as his defensive line coach. Cullen, who played at UMass, was an assistant the past three seasons with Jacksonville . . . Cowboys defensive lineman Jay Ratliff is free on bond after his arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Grapevine, Texas.