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Tim Brown and Jerry Rice Think Bill Callahan Threw Super Bowl XXXVII

Jerry Rice and Tim Brown
Tom Hauck / Getty Images

In the vein of conspiracy theories often suggested by late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, two former star wide receivers of the NFL franchise believe that their head coach intentionally changed the game plan so his team would lose Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

On Saturday, former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown — a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2013 — suggested Bill Callahan, the head coach of the Raiders in 2002 and 2003, “sabotaged” the team’s chances against Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII by changing the game plan less than 36 hours before the game. The Raiders lost to the Buccaneers, and former Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden, 48-21.

“It’s hard to say that the guy 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 can win the Super Bowl,” Brown said of Callahan, who served under Gruden in Oakland before taking over as head coach.

The claim was refuted on Tuesday by Rich Gannon, the quarterback of that Raiders’ team, but former Raiders wide receiver, and Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice concurred with Brown Tuesday afternoon on ESPN.

“In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one,’” Rice said.

Callahan, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, has yet to comment on the allegations.

The event most fans may remember about Super Bowl XXXVII is Raiders center Barrett Robbins, who suffered from bipolar disorder, leaving the team the day before the game and missing the Super Bowl. Rice and Brown suggested that Callahan’s change in game plan helped cause Robbins’ Super Bowl incident, too.

“With Barrett, he was frustrated, like, ‘You cannot do this to us at the last second.’ Maybe that’s why he decided to not show up,” Rice said.

During the game, Gannon threw five interceptions — three of which were returned for touchdowns – and the Buccaneers knew the Raiders’ play tendencies and audibles, which went largely unchanged after Gruden left for Tampa Bay after the 2001 season. The Raiders did pass the ball slightly more often than usual, but they trailed by scores of 20-3 at halftime and 34-3 in the third quarter.

NFL Films had a microphone on Buccaneers safety John Lynch throughout the game. At one point during the rout, Lynch commented to an assistant coach: “Every play they’ve run, we ran in practice. It’s unreal.”

Neither the Raiders, nor the league have commented on the accusations. Davis, the Oakland franchise’s maverick owner who died in 2011, often suggested in the past that forces off the field kept his team from winning games such as the ‘Immaculate Reception’ playoff loss to the Steelers in 1972 and the ‘Tuck Rule’ game against the Patriots in 2002.

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