Tim Brown’s suggestion that former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan sabotaged his team in Super Bowl XXXVII ignited a firestorm on Tuesday, which culminated with further accusations by a Hall of Famer and a statement by Callahan defending his name.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hall of Famer receiver Jerry Rice, a teammate with Brown on that Raiders team, said on ESPN that he was surprised when Callahan changed the Raiders’ offensive game plan two days before playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the Lombardi Trophy on Jan. 26, 2003. The Bucs went on to win the game 48-21.
“For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me,” Rice said. “In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Hey look, maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.'”
That season was Gruden’s first as head coach in Tampa Bay after four seasons in Oakland.
Shortly after that, Callahan, currently the Cowboys’ offensive line coach/offensive coordinator, released a statement of his own from Alabama, where he is working with the Cowboys coaching staff for the Senior Bowl.
“I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations,” Callahan said in a statement released Tuesday night to Dallas radio station 105.3 FM The Fan. “To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegation. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involves the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory.”
Brown originally made his claim during a radio interview Saturday, the nine-time Pro Bowler saying:
“It’s hard to say [Callahan] 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 [Gruden] can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.”
After his initial comments on Tuesday, Rice was then asked if he realized that he was suggesting Callahan might have attempted to throw the Super Bowl.
“Yeah, I know exactly what I’m saying,” Rice responded. “This is a discussion that Tim and I had. Being veterans, we know that you don’t wait until the last second to change the game plan.”
Rice said he and Brown never had the opportunity to confront Callahan about potentially throwing the game.
Later Tuesday, former linebacker Bill Romanowski, a player on that Raiders team, defended Callahan during an interview with Comcast Sports, pinning the loss more on players, notably quarterback Rich Gannon, not playing well, and questioning why Brown would come forward with the claims now, 10 years after the game.
Also on Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones removed the play-calling duties from head coach Jason Garrett, meaning there’s a realistic chance that Callahan would likely take over that responsibility.