Bill Callahan went from the Super Bowl to the unemployment line in less than a year.
As expected, the Oakland Raiders announced Callahan’s firing Wednesday, one season after he took the team to within a victory of an NFL championship as a rookie head coach.
The team told Callahan a day earlier. He asked to delay the announcement because his son Brian’s college team, UCLA, played Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Classic Tuesday night.
Openly criticized by his players, Callahan was 15-17 overall and 4-12 this season, the Raiders’ worst record since 1997 and the biggest drop by a Super Bowl team.
Callahan was fired shortly after quarterback Rich Gannon criticized him and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman for a bad offensive system.
Owner Al Davis -- his team unable to live up to his motto of “Just Win, Baby!” -- is not known for patience with coaches.
Callahan, who earned $1 million a season, completed the second year of a two-year contract, and Davis declined a series of one-year club options that could have kept Callahan in Oakland through the 2006 season.
Callahan, a seven-year NFL assistant with no previous head coaching experience, was promoted from offensive coordinator when Jon Gruden went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season. The Buccaneers beat Callahan’s Raiders, 48-21, in the 2003 Super Bowl.
This season, though, they tied for the worst record in the NFL with the Chargers, Cardinals and Giants. They ended their season with a 21-14 loss Sunday at San Diego.
There was speculation for weeks that Callahan would be dismissed. Now the Raiders are the seventh NFL team without a head coach -- nearly a quarter of the league.
“I don’t think he was happy there, and I don’t think everybody was happy with him,” left guard Frank Middleton said Wednesday. “I felt like something had to be done, either with the players or with the coach.”
Callahan’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, declined to comment. Calls to the coach’s office weren’t returned, and he reportedly packed up days ago.
Callahan is thought to be headed to Tampa Bay to join Gruden’s staff.
Several players earlier said they expected and welcomed a coaching change.
“He brought it on himself, that’s all,” cornerback Charles Woodson said in an e-mail to Associated Press on Wednesday.
Dennis Green interviewed for the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals, insisting he genuinely is interested in working for a franchise that long has been an NFL also-ran.
“If I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Green also said he has had conversations with the Washington Redskins and plans to meet with them about the vacancy created by Steve Spurrier’s resignation.
Green, who coached the Minnesota Vikings for 10 years, was the first of four candidates to be interviewed by the Cardinals this week in their search for a replacement for Dave McGinnis, who was fired Monday.
Ray Lewis is as fearsome and dependable as anyone in football, and that earned him his second award as AP defensive player of the year.
The Baltimore inside linebacker is the Ravens’ third player honored in 2003, joining offensive player of the year Jamal Lewis and defensive rookie of the year Terrell Suggs.
Lewis also was the NFL’s top defender in the 2000 season, when he led a dominant defense that carried the Ravens to the Super Bowl title.