Does anybody know if an NFL team would be subject to league discipline if one of its fans put a bounty on an opposing coach? Asking for a friend...
Tomorrow, the Raiders take on the Dallas Cowboys, featuring offensive coordinator extraordinaire Bill Callahan.
Super Bowl XXXVII was the easiest loss to stomach of our three playoff exits in the Gruden/Callahan era. Losing to Baltimore in the AFC Championship game at home, featuring Tony Siragusa frog-splashing Rich Gannon's shoulder, sucked. The Tuck Game... REALLY FUCKING SUCKED. A blowout loss where you never had a chance, that's the way you want to lose a big game. I honestly could not imagine a better Super Bowl loss. Waking up to the news that Barrett Robbins had completely lost his shit and gone AWOL in Mexico was the warning shot. Then I watched the game tightly scrunched between two cute chicks who pitied me enough to fetch all three of my King Cobra quarts out the fridge. The game ended, I stumbled home and passed out immediately, and then avoided the internet and ESPN for the next week. Piece of cake.
And then the reports began to trickle out about how Tampa Bay basically knew every single play we were running before the ball was snapped. John Lynch was recorded on the sideline during the game saying as much. And then it was revealed that none of the language of the plays or calls had been changed since Callahan replaced Gruden. Given that Gruden was coaching the other team, it's safe to say that was not smart. An objective observer would have to conclude that hey, that sure sounds like some bad coaching!
Now of course this had to be the one year where there was only a single week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl instead of the customary two- the perfect excuse/cover for being less than properly prepared. So Raider Nation just had to take the L, and be of the opinion that we just couldn't win for losing. OF COURSE we make it to the Super Bowl, only to face our old coach. Fuuuuuuuuck us.
And then Tim Brown started talking.
You can listen to Timmy's take for yourself in the clip, so I won't rehash it all. But the gist of it is that two days before the game, Callahan decided to change the offensive game plan 180 degrees, from ground-and-pound to throwing the ball all day. It didn't make sense to begin with given Tampa's defensive personnel, and it made even less sense to make the change on Friday.
Timmy has been saying this for years. But he popped off about it again during the weeks leading up to the last Super Bowl, and this time the media decided to jump on it. Brown was roundly ridiculed, until Jerry Rice stepped up and cosigned on everything. After Saint Jerry said something, the press began taking it a little more seriously. People actually began to wonder- did Callahan "sabotage" Super Bowl XXXVII?
And that's when this shit really started going off the rails.
Suddenly every Raider from that squad had his phone blowing up with reporters asking for their comments. The media took it at face value when nobody besides Rice backed Timmy up. Frankly, I was pretty confused by it all too. But recent events in the NFL cast all that in a different light now- namely the Jonathan Martin situation. A year ago, I'd have been surprised that retired players wouldn't call out a coach who possibly cost them a Super Bowl. But after what we've learned about NFL locker rooms from the Dolphins, yeah, no shit no players will come out and say their coach "sabotaged" the Super Bowl. I will never understand this super-br0 locker room code of silence crap, but there is no denying it exists, and 99% of these dudes live by it.
I have two big problems with how this has gone down. First of all, people act like Tim Brown's comments are the only evidence we have of something fishy. That is incorrect. Because item 1A the prosecution presents in their case that this game smells funny IS THE FUCKING GAME. THAT is the only reason this debate can exist. The only NFL game I can even think of that approaches this in terms of bad coaching was when Dick LeBeau played man coverage against Tebow all day. But that was clearly pure hubris. There are various ways an NFL coach can fuck up, but nothing screams "OUTCOACHED!" more than telegraphing plays. That's why they say things like "Omaha blue 87!" instead of "Hey Bob, run a deep post!" The opposition knowing what plays you're running in a Super Bowl is unacceptable. And then you don't change the lingo when you're going up against the guy who designed your whole offense? That is worse than unacceptable.
Which leads me to my second issue- the semantics. Again, not having that second off-week to prepare becomes huge here. Where exactly is the line between lazy and incompetent, and "sabotage?" Because there are no other options, no other explanations for what could possibly be the worst single-game job by a head coach in sports history. The film doesn't lie. But you ask an NFL player if his coach intentionally lost the biggest game of his life, what the fuck do you expect him to say?
Also interesting is that since this involves the Raiders, you will see different takes on this depending on the context it's presented in. Let me be clear- nothing changes the result of that game. As a Raider fan, nothing about this conversation is productive. Whenever this topic arises in the context of the team, it comes out as typical "LOLRAIDERS" dumb shit. The initial Deadspin article about it was terrible, and that was the angle they took. But if you ever see it come up in regard to Callahan himself, it's pretty much consensus opinion that he's either the worst coach ever, or he was trying to lose. I'm not going to get too into the double standards the sports media apply to the Raiders. It's not complicated- so many people hate the Raiders that clowning on them is straight low-hanging fruit click-bait. Deadspin had no problem mining it up through last season (I'm guessing the Raiders bringing Chris Kluwe to camp has something to do with it ending). And by all means, the Raiders have given all of us plenty to laugh at over the past decade. But this past summer fools completely played themselves. Owner Mark Davis fired the team PR Director after a Sports Illustrated article about Reggie McKenzie painted his pops in a negative light, and columnists left and right said it was a sure sign he was a meddler and running the team into the ground. Not exactly how it's turned out, huh Mike Silver? And when Darrius Heyward-Bey was signed by the Colts, all of a sudden he was a promising young receiver instead of a laughingstock. Yeah, he's been benched. Fuck yall.
Lord knows I wish I could be viewing this shit through more objective lenses. But trying to put myself in that position, I don't understand how any football fan couldn't find this interesting as all hell. Pretty much every Super Bowl now gets some contrived controversy cooked up after the fact so the sports media can milk every last drop of football fanaticism before it's packed up until the draft. I understand that there's only so much to be said about a decade-old ass-whooping, but it's disappointing that while the peanut gallery still wonders what the fuck was going on, ESPN and the talking heads just want to reduce it to SABOTAGE OR GTFO. You can see it in the attached clip when Trey Wingo is interviewing Jerry Rice, that they're just more interested in the resulting shit-show of flying accusations than they are in trying to figure out what the fuck Callahan was doing. But hey, maybe they're the smart ones, not trying to explain the most inexplicably bad coaching job ever.
This would be the time to tie all this up in a nice tidy little bow. But to be honest, I still don't know exactly what to think about all this. You would assume that if what Tim Brown says is true, Callahan would have been fired. But he wasn't. Instead we got the thrill of the team quitting on him in the 2003 season, where he called his own players "the dumbest team in the league" or some shit in a press conference. This fucking douche has managed to conspicuously stick out as an asshole even among NFL head coaches, and that is saying something. He's also proven himself to be such a shitty coach that it just further muddies this conversation. It's hard to say a guy threw a game when he displays utter incompetence in every stop in his career.
But "sabotage" or not, there is still only one conclusion to be drawn here. Bill Callahan fucking sucks. As a football coach and a human being. I can remember the Raiders winning two Super Bowls when I was too young to properly party down, not including the one they won the year I was born. They had a chance to win another when I had absolutely no responsibilities in life whatsoever and could have gone on a month-long celebratory bender. But Bill Callahan made sure that the greatest time of my life never happened. Bill Callahan is the devil, and tomorrow I pray to whoever is listening that he be cast back into the hell from which he was birthed. MOTHERFUCK BILL CALLAHANDJOB. Go Raiders.
Fuck Walt Coleman too.