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Rich Gannon: Bill Callahan was a good coach who wanted to win


Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon does not agree with his old teammate Tim Brown about coach Bill Callahan sabotaging the team in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers.

Gannon said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he believes Callahan coached to win in Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21.

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

Gannon made clear that he likes and respects Brown, but he doesn’t accept Brown’s version of events, which is that Callahan “hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl.”

So why did the Raiders only run the ball 11 times while throwing 44 passes in that game? Brown says Callahan changed the game plan at the last minute, leaving the Raiders ill-prepared. But Gannon says the pass-heavy play calling happened mostly because the Raiders fell behind early and trailed 20-3 by halftime.

“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,” Gannon said. “We fell behind in the game and at that point we started throwing the ball too much.”

Considering that the Raiders gained only 19 yards on their 11 runs, that theory seems more plausible than Brown’s bizarre belief that Callahan would put in all the work necessary to lead his team to the Super Bowl and then purposely sabotage his team by changing the game plan at the last minute.

“I don’t know that the game plan really changed,” Gannon said.

Where Gannon did acknowledge the Raiders’ coaches screwed up was in not changing up the terminology they used for calls at the line of scrimmage. Jon Gruden had coached the Raiders for the four previous seasons before coaching against them in the Super Bowl, and Gannon says Callahan hadn’t changed any of the terminology the Raiders used on offense. As a result, Gruden had taught the Bucs the Raiders’ calls, and the Bucs knew what was coming when Gannon barked out his signals at the line of scrimmage.

“So much of our verbiage and terminology was a carryover from what Jon Gruden had installed in terms of our run checks, and so we were calling certain plays and guys like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were calling out the runs,” Gannon said. “So it kind of took us out of our no-huddle plan at the line of scrimmage.”

Failing to change the terminology so that the opposing coach wouldn’t know it was a huge gaffe by Callahan, and it’s completely reasonable to criticize him for that. But saying he made a stupid mistake in his preparation for the Super Bowl is a long way from saying he actually wanted to lose the Super Bowl.