Former Raiders coach Bill Callahan denies sabotaging Super Bowl

Bill Callahan, shown coaching the Oakland Raiders in 2002, responded Wednesday to former players' allegations that he might have "sabotaged" Super Bowl XXXVII.
(Gary Tramontina / Associated Press)

Bill Callahan isn’t taking accusations of sabotaging Super Bowl XXXVII lying down.

A day after former Oakland receiver Jerry Rice agreed with statements made by ex-teammate Tim Brown that their coach may have purposely hurt the Raiders’ chances to win the NFL title 10 years ago, Callahan released a strongly worded statement of his own.

Not only does Callahan vehemently deny the allegations, he calls them “defamatory” and asks for an immediate retraction.

“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,” said Callahan, currently the offensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

“To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involves the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory. I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the lucky few, sustains us in adulthood.

“Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicated my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat-out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all, including the game America loves, that these allegations be retracted immediately.”

In a SiriusXM interview Saturday, Brown said Callahan “hated the Raiders” and questioned why he would change the game plan from a run-heavy attack to emphasizing the pass on the Friday before the Super Bowl. The game ended in a lopsided victory for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by Callahan’s close friend Jon Gruden.

Rice chimed in Tuesday on ESPN: “I was very surprised that [Callahan] waited till 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 decided ‘Hey look, maybe we should sabotage just a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”

But not all Brown’s former teammates agree with the assertion. Former Oakland linebacker Bill Romanowski said of Brown in a radio interview: “He absolutely couldn’t be further from the truth. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And I’ll tell you what, I’m blown away that something like that would come out of an intelligent man’s mouth.”

Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, who had five passes intercepted in the 48-21 loss, refuses to lay the blame on the coach.

“In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this: He was a good football coach, he was a good man,” Gannon said on Sirius XM. “We all wanted to win.”

He added: “I think what happened was that we came out and tried to run the football early in that game, we didn’t have a lot of success. We fell behind in the game and at that point we started throwing the ball too much.”

Former Raiders offensive lineman Frank Middleton told the Associated Press: “Callahan hated us. 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.”


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