According to receiver Tim Brown, it’s no surprise that Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers thrashed the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII because Oakland was “sabotaged” by Bill Callahan, the team’s head coach at the time, who changed the game plan at the last minute.
Brown’s comments to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Saturday were reported by ProFootballTalk.com, which was provided audio of his remarks.
Brown said that when the Raiders got the game plan on the Monday before the Super Bowl, it was a run-heavy attack taking advantage of Oakland’s size advantage on the offensive line. However, Brown said Callahan scrapped the plan on Friday to the shock of the team.
“We all called it sabotage … because Callahan and Gruden were good friends. 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.”
Brown stressed that he was expressing his opinion and had no proof that Callahan intentionally doomed his own team.
“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,” Brown said. “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 cant 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,” he said.
Brown said center Barret Robbins, who disappeared from the team in the days before the game and did not play, begged Callahan not to change the game plan.
“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 said.
Brown wouldn’t correlate Robbins’ absence from the team with Callahan’s decision, however.
“I’m not saying one had anything to do with the other. 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,” Brown said.
Brown said “everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway” but the team couldn’t fathom Callahan would change plans at the last minute.
“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 dont think were in that situation,” he said.
Running back Zack Crockett, who also was on that Raiders team and is now a scout for the team, said Callahan changed the game plan only because of Robbins’ disappearance.
“He may have known something we didn’t know,” Crockett told ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” of Brown.
Crockett said “everybody was in shock” when Robbins left the team because he made all the offensive calls. He agrees with Brown that “with the offensive line we had, it was going to be a downhill game” if the original game plan was used.
Oakland rushed the ball only 11 times in the Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers, and two of those attempts were by quarterback Rich Gannon. Gannon attempted 44 passes in the loss.
Robbins was diagnosed as bipolar after that incident but regained his spot in the starting lineup the next season after undergoing treatment at an alcohol rehabilitation center. However, the Raiders released Robbins in 2004 after he tested positive for steroids.
In addition to stays in alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, Robbins has had several run-ins with law enforcement.
Brown’s comments about Callahan came just days after he questioned the Bears’ hiring of coach Marc Trestman, who was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator when Brown was on the team.
“I don’t want to say it was a joke, but I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach,” Brown said last week on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.
Brown had posted nine straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team’s offensive coordinator. In that 2002 season, Jerry Rice emerged as the team’s leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.
“The year he took over as offensive coordinator is also the year my reign with the Raiders ended because he made Jerry the No. 1 receiver instead of myself,” Brown said. “The year before I made the Pro Bowl and caught [91 passes for 1,165 yards] … and the year afterwards, the year he takes over, I think I came like 50 yards from catching 1,000 yards in 10 or 11 straight seasons.
“Hey, look, I’m not a selfish player, but come on, if I put the work in, make this happen for me. We had some interesting words about that part of it.”
Brown is one of 15 modern-era Hall of Fame finalists for the class of 2013. The Hall’s 46-member selection committee will meet in New Orleans on Feb. 2 to make its selections.
Callahan is currently the Cowboys’ offensive line coach.