Last Saturday, Raiders great Tim Brown made claims that former Raiders coach Bill Callahan may have intentionally sabotaged the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII against Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers. Now Jerry Rice has stepped up and backed up Browns' claims.
We are coming up on the tenth anniversary of the debacle that was the Raiders Super Bowl XXXVII loss to the Buccaneers. In that game, the Raiders previously unstoppable offense was suddenly a complete disaster and the Buccaneers defense appeared to know exactly what was coming at any given moment.
For the past decade, the Raiders collapse in that game was blamed on the idea that the Raiders didn't change their playbook since when Jon Gruden was Raiders coach the season before. That still holds true to this day but Tim Brown thickened the plot by using the word "sabotage" with regard to Bill Callahan.
Though widely discussed since Brown made those claims, much of it was seen as ridiculous. But now Jerry Rice has chimed in and echoed much of what Tim Brown said initially and people are really listening now.
Rice was asked by ESPN analyst Trey Wingo on Tuesday's NFL Live Broadcast if the game plan really had changed on that Friday before the game.
"Yes it did," Rice responded. "I was very surprised by that because you work all week long running the football and then all of the sudden on that given Friday we decided we were going to come out and throw the ball over 60 times. And I think with Bill Callahan and what Tim Brown is accusing him of is that why would you wait until the last second to change the game plan."
"You don't want to question your coach at that time but we just found that it was very unusual to change everything when we had Tyronne Wheatley and also Charlie Garner then we had probably the best fullback in the league with Zack Crocket. So we had a game plan and all of the sudden you change that game plan and basically we didn't know what was going to happen in that Super Bowl."
This idea that the Raiders had practiced being a run first team all week only to switch to "throw the ball over 60 times" was exactly what Tim Brown claimed. But the primary question is that of sabotage for which Rice had this to say:
"I think with Tim Brown, he'd been with the Raiders longer," said Rice. "I recall when I first went to the Raiders, for some reason, and I don't know why, Bill Callahan he didn't like me. He was that type of coach and some of the things that happened, you know, with him walking off the field during the game, not being happy about certain situations, I was very surprised that he waited until the last second and I think a lot of the players, they were surprised also. So in a way, maybe because he didn't like the Raiders, he thought maybe we should sabotage just a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one."
There is no mixing up that Rice had just said Callahan sabotaged the Raiders in that game. He went on to make sure there was no confusion.
"Yeah, I know exactly what I'm saying," Rice continued. "This is a discussion that Tim and I had and being veterans we know that you don't wait until the last second to change the game plan."
One of the more interesting points Tim Brown made was saying the change in game plan was what caused center Barret Robbins to go AWOL to Mexico the Saturday before the game. Rice confirms that as well.
"Without a doubt because the center is like the quarterback on the field. He has to get all the calls right and all week long we worked on a certain defense and then on that given Friday he decided to change the game plan to a passing game and I think Barret was frustrated. He was like ‘you cannot do this to us at the last second' and maybe that's the reason why he decided to not show up."
One of the reasons this is so interesting is because many players were of the mind that the game plan changed because Robbins' absence. This suggests to the contrary and it is a big deal. Robbins was seen as a villain in all this despite the mental problems he had that caused his fall from grace and several run-ins with the law since leaving the NFL.
These are damning allegations which Brown and Rice are making. Their accounts of it are enough, but they aren't the only ones. Other Raiders teammates spoke up as well.
One such player on that team is fullback Jon Ritchie who is glad people are finally getting the story he has been trying to tell people for quite some time.
"I've said it for years," said Ritchie. "what we practiced heavily during the week is not what we ran in that game. It could have been due to Barret's absence. It was never explained to me. I believe I said it on the record every year we talked about the Super Bowl, I always thought it would get sensational like this."
The aforementioned Zack Crockett also echoed the claim that the Raiders were planning to run the ball more but changed it up. Although, he was also still of the mind it had to do with Robbins' absence as opposed to the other way around.
"We were to believe that we were gonna run the ball but when Barret Disappeared it had to be tanked," said Crockett. "You got to adjust to a different center, you got a different guy that you're gonna put in who really hasn't played all year. That's a change. You go from an All Pro center to a long snapper."
Then there were those vehemently opposed to the notion that the game plan changed at the last minute or that there was any such sabotage involved by Callahan. First and foremost, Rich Gannon.
"I don't know that the game plan really changed. In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this, he was a good football coach, he was a good man, I don't think that he would ever intentionally, nor do I think anyone on our team would, because of a relationship with a former coach or anything try and... there was too much in it for all of us. From a selfish perspective, we all wanted to win. I'm sure Bill Callahan was one of them as well."
The always vocal Bill Romanowski was skeptical as well.
"I like Tim Brown," said Romanowski. "Great guy, great teammate but I think he's delusional to think that Bill Callahan would give up the biggest opportunity of his life, to create a legacy for himself, to be a Super Bowl winning coach, he is.... I can't even comprehend that something like that would come out of his mouth."
The timing of all this is interesting to say the least. For Tim Brown because he is currently a finalist for the 2013 Hall of Fame class. For the Raiders because we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of the XXXVII Super Bowl loss.
It's also interesting for Bill Callahan. He is the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys and reports came out just today that head coach Jason Garrett has been stripped of his play calling duties and those duties will now fall to Callahan.
This isn't over by a long shot. We all still have to receive word from Callahan but you can bet he will stick with his story about having to change the plan due to Robbins' absence. If that happens, he is essentially calling Brown and Rice liars.