It has been ten years since that fateful Super Bowl disaster against the Buccaneers. And in those ten years, the members of that team have not let go of what happened that day in San Diego. They probably never will.
Many of the players on that team headed to the locker room after their 48-21 loss searching for answers. It was such an incredible shock to many of them, the only thing that made any sense was sabotage.
Sabotage by the head coach who led them to the edge of a cliff and pushed them over it. The notion seems downright crazy to just about anyone who thinks about it. And it goes to show you just how impossible it was for the players on that team to imagine how Callahan could have really screwed things up as badly as he did.
The one person affected the most by Callahan's actions was Barret Robbins. The All Pro center had a complete mental breakdown just prior to the Super Bowl when he was told the Raiders would be switching the game plan two days before the big game. He was clinically bipolar and took medication for it. The last minute switch sent him over the edge and caused him to go on a drinking binge that night and miss the game.
He was already unstable. He was so far gone that at the time he was found, in his mind the Raiders had won the Super Bowl and he was celebrating it. He awoke from that dream to a nightmare. And since that night, he had the guilt that he cost himself and his team the Super Bowl and angry Raider fans all over putting the blame on him as well.
In the ten years since that game, Tim Brown and his teammates have wanted their version of the story heard. They wanted people to listen. They wanted the villain label removed from Robbins and place where it belonged - Bill Callahan.
They also wanted Callahan to answer for his actions. If that meant using the word "sabotage" publicly which they had previously only used amongst each other, so be it.
And after ten years, Brown has finally accomplished his mission.
This story has dominated the news cycle the past couple days which in today's world of instant information, is a long time. Several of the former Raiders players have chimed in even if they didn't all agree whole heartedly with Brown and Rice's account. Callahan in turn released a statement on it.
The statement by Callahan wasn't even vetted through his current team, the Dallas Cowboys. He released the statement through his agent without the Cowboys permission. That's how urgent he and his agent felt they needed to attack these accusations.
The response in the statement so far is expected. When he is made to answer questions on it, those too will very likely be expected as well. He will undoubtedly say something along the lines of what he might have said in the minutes after the game. ‘The Buccaneers were a better team' and so on.
But what this accomplishes is far more rewarding in that it forces Callahan to answer for anything. The mere fact that ten years after the fact, Callahan is having to make a statement and will soon have to answer questions is a victory of sorts for all the players on that team who were denied any chance of winning that game.
Callahan will tell you the Buccaneers were just so much better and you can bet so will anyone associated with the Buccaneers, but that simply wasn't the case. The Raiders were the best team in the NFL that season and Rich Gannon was named MVP as they cruised to the Super Bowl. And yet suddenly they looked like they didn't belong on that field.
Buccaneers players were calling out the Raiders plays in the defensive huddle. Bucs safety John Lynch was recorded by NFL Films on the sideline telling Jon Gruden that the Raiders were doing exactly what they had practiced, exclaiming "It's unreal". So, it seems the Raiders players weren't the only ones who couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Rich Gannon was under tremendous pressure every time he dropped back to throw, the running backs could find no room to run, and the Buccaneers defenders knew where every pass was going. The result was five interceptions and no running room. The Bucs simply knew what was coming on every play without hesitation. Callahan has to answer for that. It may not have been sabotage by design, but he doomed the Raiders from the start.
Players like Tim Brown have to live with losing out on their best shot at winning a title in embarrassing fashion every day of their lives. He is a Hall of Fame finalist this year but he would be a lock if he had a ring to go with all his receiving numbers. That's an impossible thing to let go of.
Jerry Rice has his rings. He has no agenda and yet he came out and said the exact same thing as Brown. He pointed out that being such a veteran as Tim Brown is what made it the most bewildering about it all. Neither of them had ever seen anything like it.
As for Robbins, his life quickly unraveled into a series of run-ins with the law and stints in prison for his actions connected to his bipolar disorder. It is a tragic tale of which the only thing left to be done was a public showing of support from his former teammate and friend, Tim Brown. The best way to do that was to let the world know the true story of how that Super Bowl was lost.
The truth will set you free. But since truth often falls on deaf media ears; a bit of controversy mixed in with a whole lot of truth... will set you free.