Former Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice just appeared on ESPN’s NFL Live show. During a phone interview, Rice backed fellow former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown’s accusation that coach Bill Callahan “sabotaged” the Raiders’ chances of winning the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by changing the game plan the Friday before the game.
This story just keeps getting stranger by the minute, with numerous players chiming in on the subject. It’s worth noting that Jon Ritchie, the fullback on that team, also feels the same way, while linebacker Bill Romanowski, right offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, safety Rod Woodson and quarterback Rich Gannon disagreed with Brown’s seemingly outlandish accusation.
There will be plenty more on this as it unfolds, including any comment from Callahan, who now is with the Dallas Cowboys. Also, beat writer Jerry McDonald is working on a story for later today.
In the interim, here’s what Rice had to say:
Q: Was the game plan changed Friday before the game?
A: “Yes, it did. I was very surprised by that because you work all week long running the football, then all of a sudden on that given Friday, we decided that we were going to come out and throw the ball over 60 times. What Bill Callahan, and what Tim Brown is accusing him of is that, why would you wait until the last second to change the game plan.”
Q: In any way, do you think Callahan tried to sabotage the Raiders’ chances of winning the Super Bowl?
A: “With Tim Brown, he had been with the Raiders longer, and I recall when I first went to the Raiders, for some reason, and I don’t know why, Bill Callahan, he did not like me. He was that type of coach. Some of the things that happened, with him walking off the field during the game, not being happy about certain situations, I was very surprised that he waited until the last second, and a lot of the players, they were surprised also. So, in a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided that, ‘Hey, look, maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’ ”
Q: In saying that, you’re saying that Callahan would, perhaps, risk his career to let the Bucs win?
A: “Yeah, I know exactly what I’m saying. 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. It has a lot to do with the center, too. He was like, ‘You can’t do this to us right now,’ and maybe that was the reason why he ended up going over to Mexico and he was a no show during the Super Bowl.”
Q: So, you think Callahan’s changing the game plan prompted center Barret Robbins to go to Mexico on the Saturday before the game?
A: “Well, without a doubt because, the center is just like a quarterback on the field. He has to get all the calls right. All week long, we worked on a certain defense. Then, on that given Friday, (Callahan) decided to change the game plan to a passing game. With Barret, he was frustrated, he was, like, ‘You cannot do this to us at the last second.’ Maybe that’s the reason why he decided to not show up.”
Q: Have you and Tim Brown confronted Bill Callahan with your stance about him sabotaging the Super Bowl?
A: “We never had the opportunity. But, as a veteran and as a guy that had been around for a long time, you don’t want to question your coach at that time. But we just found that it was very unusual to change everything, when we had Tyrone Wheatley and also Charlie Garner, and we had probably the best fullback in the league with Zack Crockett. So, we had a game plan and all of a sudden you change that game plan. Basically, we didn’t know exactly was going to happen in that Super Bowl.”
Q: Just to clarify, you believe that Callahan potentially and deliberately hurt the Raiders’ chances of winning that Super Bowl?
A: “Well, this is what I’m saying. I just felt it was very unusual. Tim Brown, he was like the guy in Oakland, and if he was suspicious of something like that, I really have to believe Tim Brown because this guy was everything with the Oakland Raiders. He had been there a long, long time and this was a discussion that we had after. I just found it to be very unusual because you want to go into that situation knowing exactly what you want to do, how you want to approach that defensive opponent, and we changed everything that Friday.”