A decade ago, the Raiders’ fate in Super Bowl XXXVII presumably was sealed by the weekend disappearance of center Barret Robbins. Hall of Fame finalist Tim Brown believes that the blame for the 48-21 loss to the Buccaneers should go to Oakland’s head coach.
“We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we’re gonna run the ball,” Brown said Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, which provided us with the audio. “We averaged 340 [pounds] on the offensive line, they averaged 280 [on the defensive line]. We’re all happy with that, everybody is excited. [We] tell Charlie Garner, ‘Look, you’re not gonna get too many carries, but at the end of the day we’re gonna get a victory. Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett, let’s get ready to blow this thing up.’”
According to Brown, coach Bill Callahan then “blew this thing up” on the Friday before the Super Bowl, changing the game plan from a run-heavy attack to an intent to “throw the ball 60 times.”
“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said. “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. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . . It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.
“But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game we changed our game plan. And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot. That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up.”
Brown explained that the change had a specific impact on Robbins. “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. We haven’t practiced full speed, we can’t get this done.’”
Brown tiptoed around the question of whether the change caused Robbins to go off the deep end, suggesting that it had an impact and then explaining that there’s no way to know if it did. “I’m not saying one had anything to do with the other,” Brown said. “All I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened Super Bowl week. So our ire wasn’t towards Barret Robbins, it was towards Bill Callahan. Because we feel as if he wouldn’t have did what he did, then Barret wouldn’t have done what he did.
“Now, should Barret have manned up and tried to do it? Absolutely. But everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway. So to put him in that situation — not that he was putting him in that situation — but for that decision to be made without consulting the players the Friday before the Super Bowl? I played 27 years of football. The coaches never changed the game plan the Friday before the game. I’m not trying to point fingers at anybody here, all I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened. So people look at Barret and they say all these things, but every player in that locker room will tell you, ‘You’d better talk to Bill Callahan.’ Because if not for Coach Callahan, I don’t think we’re in that situation.”
Well, we now know what Tim Brown will be asked about next week in New Orleans. Continuously.
There’s only one potential flaw in Brown’s logic. He assumes that the new game plan came from Callahan. Who’s to say that the order to throw the ball 60 times didn’t come from the late Al Davis, who had a special affinity for throwing the football, and also for meddling directly in the coaching of the team?
Thus, while it’s easy to blame Callahan, Callahan may have simply been the messenger.
Regardless, Brown and Callahan and Gruden and quarterback Rich Gannon and anyone/everyone who was part of that team will soon be hearing from reporters and radio/TV producers, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the game.