Thursday, January 24, 2013

Frustration Nation

You know that as a lifelong Raiduhs fan, I loves me some Tim Brown like a fat kid loves cake, and that Super Bowl 37 was a dark day for the franchise, one that continues to dog them a full decade later. Brown's accusation of then-coach Bill Callahan "sabotaging" that game -- and Jerry Rice supporting that assertion -- would be weird for any other franchise, but sadly not terribly surprising for Oakland.

Brown has since retracted his comments (which, as they were captured on a sports-talk show, were likely somewhat decontextualized in the first place), claiming that he never said "sabotage" (even though that's exactly the word he used) in reference to Callahan's perplexing play-calling decisions. If Brown's assertion that Callahan changed up the game plan just 36 hours before the game, that is bizarre. So far that hasn't been corroborated -- nor, for that matter, proven that if it was done, that it wasn't at the behest of Al Davis.

One thing that has been taken as fact since the day of the game is that Callahan failed to change any of Gannon's audible language or hand signals from when Gruden had run the team, which allowed the Bucs' D to know what plays the Raiders were calling. This, along with Callahan being run out of town on a rail from Nebraska after he was fired from Oakland, will probably ensure that Callahan never has another HC job in the NFL again, unless it's some 1-15 dump of a team.

So Callahan, while a solid OC, turned out to be a shit HC, and laid an egg in the biggest game of his career. He may very well have screwed the pooch hard enough to set off his bipolar center on a Tijuana bender, thus sealing the team's fate before the game had begun. But it's incredibly unlikely that any coach, no matter how dissatisfied they were with their gig, would deliberately fuck it up in a game that, if they won, would pretty much allow them to write their own ticket anywhere they wanted. And if sabotage was a concern, let's go out on a limb and stipulate that waiting ten full years to lob such an insinuation is ludicrous. (Although, to be fair, at one point in the 2003 season, Brown and Charles Woodson implied much the same thing about that season, though they said nothing about the SB at the time.)

And when you get right down to it, just look at how the team has been run since Callahan left. Until they managed to to salvage their 2010-11 seasons with back-to-back 8-8 records, the Raiders had the worst overall record since 2003. (They're still second- or third-worst.) Half-assed draft picks, ludicrous free-agent signings, and completely ignoring both lines for years on end have taken a toll. Even before then, keep in mind that Callahan got the job only because Gruden got into a pissing contest with Davis, who saw fit to trade Gruden for some money and draft picks, rather than just pay him what he was worth.

And Chucky got his revenge the following year in the last Raiders Super Bowl (or decent season) that Davis would ever see, though it's worthy of note that JaCarcass Russell, of all people, beat Gruden's Bucs in Tampa Bay in the final game of the 2008 season, culminating in Gruden's dismissal from Tampa. But it wasn't Callahan who threw money at a jerkoff like Russell, nor was it Callahan who made it rain for clown free agents such as Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall. The Raiders were $22M over the salary cap last year, and had to restructure heavily. $20M of their cap hit was "dead money"  (salary owed to players no longer with the team) for two players whose ROI for the team was extremely low.

So. A history of:  meddling with game plans and playbook schemes (esp. defensive schemes); crapshoot draft picks; wild overspending on half-assed FAs; going for cheap instead of good with head coaches; refusing to acknowledge that the one successful Raider HC since their return to Oakland (Gruden) did it with the distinctly un-Raider-like West Coast offense and significant zone defense. Who's really been sabotaging the Raiders all these years?

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