Why Tim Brown blames Bill Callahan for Barret Robbins missing Super Bowl

Why Tim Brown blames Bill Callahan for Barret Robbins missing Super Bowl

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Barret Robbins' disappearance before Super Bowl XXXVII is one that has many layers. There are many parties to blame for the All-Pro center winding up in Tijuana, Mexico the night before the biggest game of his life.

It's a story about mental illness, a culture that cared only about winning and the dangers of misdiagnosis. Surely, all of those played a role in the Robbins saga. But former Raiders receiver and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tim Brown lays the blame for Robbins' mental break at the feet of one man in particular: Bill Callahan.

Just days before the Raiders were set to face their old boss Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in San Diego, Callahan decides to drastically alter the entire game plan.

"Monday morning, we get a booklet that says ‘Game Plan To A Championship,' " Brown said in an interview for NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast on Robbins' disappearance that was released Thursday.

"He said, 'I think we can run the ball on these guys. We have to establish the run,' " Lincoln Kennedy said of the initial game plan. "That was his report: We have to establish the run. And I'm like: 'Ok. Let's do it. It's natural. They're smaller up front than us.'"

The Raiders' game plan went from running it down the Bucs' throat to throwing it 60 times through the air with only two days to prepare.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

For a team to have a great week of practice, and then get an entirely new game plan to learn and perfect just days prior to the biggest game of the season was something almost no one could believe.

"It was a shocker to everybody," Rod Woodson said. "I know for me, I just couldn't believe it. I dropped my book in the meeting when he said it. I know in my 17 years of playing, even in the preseason you don't do that."

While every member of the Silver and Black was stunned, Robbins was the one it impacted the most. Brown believes the new game plan was devastating for Robbins.

"The guy who this is going to affect the most is Barret Robbins," Brown said. "Because Barret Robbins is the one who has to make all the calls. He is begging Callahan, 'Don't do this, I don't have time to prepare for this. Please don't do this.' I was with him, and he's begging him, 'You can't do this to me.' 'No, this is what we are going to do. This is what we are going to do.' Well, it's that night that Barret went out and went AWOL -- that night. Now, does one have to do with another? I say yes. You may say no. I say yes."

[RELATED: The real reason Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII]

After the sudden game plan change, Brown and the Raiders knew their title dreams were over.

"So we go into the Super Bowl knowing that we don't have a chance to win," Brown said.

That Friday, Robbins partied all day and night in San Diego and then he did the same in Tijuana the next day. Robbins made it back to San Diego, where defensive back Calvin Branch found him crying in a cab Saturday night. Branch tried to sneak Robbins back into the team hotel and into the lineup for the biggest game of their lives, but his plan was foiled.

Robbins was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after, when he was sent to the Betty Ford Clinic in Riverside.

While all of the blame can't be laid at Callahan's feet, it's possible the last-second change in game plan had a huge impact on Robbins' mental state and led to his absence from the Raiders' disappointing loss to Gruden in the Super Bowl.

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

It's no secret how fast Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs is. With his 4.27 40-yard dash speed, he's in the end zone in the blink of an eye.

The Raiders were enamored with Ruggs' speed, and rightfully so. That certainly played a big role in the Silver and Black selecting the former Alabama receiver with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it wasn't the only reason. 

Ruggs had some of the best hands in the draft, and he proved that with an insane one-handed grab for a touchdown early on in Raiders training camp. 

It's easy to see why the Raiders fell in love with Ruggs before the draft. He tallied 86 receptions for 1,487 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns his final two years for the Crimson Tide. Ruggs should have a big role in the offense, and the hope is he connects right away with quarterback Derek Carr. 

So far, so good. 

Ruggs should be used all over the field as a rookie, as the Raiders find ways to get the ball in his hands. And it appears he will start off in the slot. 

[RELATED: Raiders rookie Edwards compared to two Pro Bowl wideouts]

“We’ll start with Ruggs III in the slot and do some things with Ruggs III," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said to reporters last week, via Raiders Wire. "But those guys (Ruggs and Bryan Edwards) are very multiple in what they can do and that’s the goal is to be able to move all of them around to different spots; the one, two or three position at the wide receiver.”

Whether it be on the inside or outside, Ruggs will play a big part in the Raiders' offense right away. His ridiculous one-handed grab was just another preview of what's to come.

Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

Getty Images

Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

With every word that an NFL coach utters these days, it would be naive not to think there is a calculation factor to almost everything they say, especially when offering unsolicited insight into a specific player.

So it was worth noting that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden singled out UNLV rookie Javin White on Thursday when assessing the Raiders’ linebacker situation.

The rebuilt unit added two prominent veterans in free agency last March, and both Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski bring experience, proven production and much-needed pass coverage ability as three-down players.

But there is an open position alongside them at weakside linebacker, and with no clear-cut favorite to claim the job, Gruden and his defensive staff will spend the next three weeks assessing a handful of candidates before declaring a winner.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal