Former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown said coach Bill Callahan may have sabotaged Oakland's chances of winning Super Bowl XXXVII against Tampa Bay 10 years ago by changing the game plan two days before the game.
Although stopping short of blaming Callahan, Brown suggested that the change in plans could have contributed to Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins' going AWOL from the team and missing the Super Bowl due to substance abuse.
Brown also said that Callahan never liked the Raiders organization. Tampa Bay and former Raiders coach Jon Gruden, a friend of Callahan's, wound up beating the Raiders 48-21.
In an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Brown said the Raiders knew they didn't have a chance to beat the Buccaneers when Callahan switched from a run-oriented plan to a pass-heavy attack on Friday.
"We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we're gonna run the ball," Brown said Saturday in a transcript provided by ProFootballTalk.com. "We averaged 340 (pounds) on the offensive line, they averaged 280 (on the defensive line). We're all happy with that, everybody is excited. ''
Then, Brown said, Callahan inexplicably switched plans on the Friday before the game and planned on "throwing 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."
Jerry Rice, who started alongside Brown at wide receiver for the Raiders, told ESPN that he agrees with Brown and thought the game plan change was "unusual."
"I think Tim Brown, what he's accusing (Callahan of) is why would you wait 'til the last second to change the game plan?," Rice said. "I think a lot of players they were surprised, also. In a way, because (Callahan) didn't like the Raiders he decided that, `Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let (Buccaneers coach) Jon Gruden go out and win this one.' "
Brown said Robbins pleaded with Callahan to stick with the original game plan. As the center, Robbins was responsible for making line calls, which he had practiced all week anticipating a pass-happy attack, Brown said.
"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,'"
"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."
Raiders fullback Jon Ritchie expressed surprise that the controversy of the game plan change took so long to catch people's attention.
"I've said it for years. What we practiced heavily during the week is not what we ran in that game," Ritchie said Tuesday. "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."
Nonetheless, other former Raiders disagree strongly with Brown's suggestion that Callahan would intentionally hurt Oakland's chances of winning.
"I like Tim Brown, 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," Romanowski told ESPN. "I can't even comprehend that something like that would come out of (Brown's) mouth."
Rich Gannon, the Raiders' record-setting quarterback that season, also disputed Brown's claims during an interview on Sirius XM radio.
"I don't know if the game plan really changed,' Gannon sad. "(But) in terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this, he was a good football coach, I think he's a good man. I don't think he'd ever, nor would anyone on our team, because of a relationship with a former coach or anything would intentionally (do that).
"There was too much in it for all of us from a selfish perspective," said Gannon, whose five interceptions helped doom the Raiders' fate that day. "We we all wanted to win (and) I'm sure Bill Callahan was one of them as well."
Gannon, though, said the biggest mistake the Raiders' coaches made was not changing the terminology used for audibles and other calls at the line of scrimmage. Those calls remained the same ones used when Gruden coached the Raiders, which backfired during the Super Bowl because Gruden's Buccaneers also had learned the terminology.
One former Raiders offensive player who wished to be unnamed, texted ESPN's Chris Mortensen his surprise at Brown's allegations.
"No, (Tim) isn't right. While there was always dysfunction, that didn't happen. If anything Bill wanted to kick Jon's a--. Nobody would do that. Brutal. We got out-played and out-coached. Period."