On Bill Callahan's Hail Mary Super Bowl XXXVII Game Plan For Oakland Raiders

By Harry Dole

Retired wide receiver Tim Brown created quite a firestorm when he alleged former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan sabotaged Super Bowl XXXVII, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pummeled the Raiders 48-21.  Although on the surface, Brown’s comments may be categorized as preposterous, Callahan’s offensive game plan for the big game is where the real lunacy lies.

In the game, the Raiders ran 49 passing plays and 11 running plays.  In other words, 82% of the plays called by Oakland were passing plays.  During the regular season, the Raiders passed the ball 60% of the time, therefore, the deviation from their norm was quite odd.  If Callahan expected to have any chance of defeating the Bucs’ top-ranked passing defense with such an idiotic unbalanced game plan, he goes down in history as the worst Super Bowl coach of all time.

The Raiders called a passing play on eight of their first nine plays and their leading rusher, RB Charlie Garner (5.3 yds/rush during season), had only two rushes in the entire first quarter.  For the entire game, Garner only rushed the ball seven times, with two of those coming at the end of the first half to run out the clock.

In the first quarter with just under six minutes remaining, the score was tied 3-3, when the Raiders took possession of the ball at the Tampa 49 yard line.  On both first and second downs, Oakland ran seldom used FB Zack Crockett, who only had 40 runs during the entire season for a 3.0 average.  Again, where was Garner?  What was the point of running a short yardage specialist on two consecutive plays with such favorable field position?

At halftime, the score was 20-3 and the Raiders were receiving the ball first.  Raiders QB Rich Gannon had only seven completions and two interceptions at the intermission on 21 pass plays.

Callahan’s game plan was puzzling to say the least, considering the Bucs had the #1 ranked pass defense and were playing Cover 2.  Even a Madden13 novice knows the best chance of succeeding against a Cover 2 defense is to run straight at it.  By playing directly into the Bucs strength and making no halftime adjustments whatsoever, Callahan’s brain must have been running on automatic pilot.

Given the impending debacle, what type of halftime adjustments did Callahan make when the passing game was obviously not working in the first half?  Absolutely none, as Gannon would continue to fling the ball unsuccessfully after the half. The Raiders passing game had no success until they were down and buried by a  34-3 margin in the third quarter, after the first of three Gannon pick sixes.

Callahan also displayed inexplicable incompetence by his failure to change the audible calls, the same ones which were used when Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden was in Oakland during the previous four seasons.  With such poor game planning which gave his team little to no chance of winning, Callahan should have just next-day-aired the Raiders’ playbook to his good buddy Gruden.

Former Raiders player and Fox Analyst Howie Long also weighed in on Brown’s controversial comments by stating that it was a poorly called and coached game by the Raiders.  Ya think?  Long was “shocked” that the coaching staff did not change up some of their plays which Gruden was familiar with to throw off the Bucs.  Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, a teammate of Brown on the same Raiders team, also came out in support of Brown’s claims.

For those who are defending Callahan by stating the Raiders were behind and had to keep throwing the ball, the game was 6-3 Tampa Bay midway through the second quarter.  It was hardly out of hand at that point.  The blowout did not begin to take effect until after the Raiders passed the ball three consecutive times (unsuccessfully) from their own 11 yard line.

For sure, Brown’s allegations may be a bit odd, especially coming on the ten year anniversary of the game.  But his claims are nowhere near as odd as Callahan’s horrid game plan.

And, oh by the way, the offensive coordinator for the Raiders during the game was recently hired Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman.  As Trestman begins his first stint as a head coach in the NFL, Callahan coached one more season for the Raiders, and has not been hired as a head coach since.

Nothing odd about that.

Twitter @HarrisDole

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