- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is why it was so important for Bill Callahan to strike back. It is giving him a chance to see this stunning story to go away.
Late Tuesday night, the former Oakland head coach -- whose ethics were put into question by former Oakland receiver Tim Brown -- came at Brown hard with a statement. In it, Callahan said he was outraged by the allegation from Brown that Callahan sabotaged the Raiders’ chances of winning the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay 10 years ago so his Callahan's friend Jon Gruden could beat Oakland. Gruden was previously Oakland’s head coach, and Callahan replaced him.
Some former Oakland teammates, including Jerry Rice, backed up Brown’s claims that Callahan, now an assistant in Dallas, changed the Raiders' offensive game plan late in the week before the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay. None went as far as Brown did in his claims though. Other teammates, including quarterback Rich Gannon, backed Callahan.
Callahan said Brown’s words were defamation, and he called for Brown to retract his words immediately.
Wednesday morning, Brown basically did.
In an interview that was as almost as outrageous as the interview in which Brown made the stunning allegations, Brown said this on the Dan Patrick Show: "I have never said that he sabotaged the game. All I was saying after the game was, you know, the question was asked about this situation, but no one ever said -- and I said on the radio show last Saturday night -- that's something that could never be proven. We can't go inside the mind of Bill Callahan and say, 'Oh, yeah, we knew exactly what he was thinking, what he was trying to do.' All I'm saying is, the question was asked. But of course the media hears 'sabotage' and 'Bill Callahan' and 'throwing the football game,' now they're saying 'throwing the football game' and that terminology was never used. But that wasn't the intent."
Saturday, Brown started the firestorm by saying this on SiriusXMRadio: "We all called it sabotage ... because Callahan and Gruden were good friends," Brown said. "And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come."
Brown kept his original stance in interviews with multiple media outlets Tuesday before Callahan struck back. Once Callahan countered Brown, the outspoken receiver backtracked.
Here’s a personal message from me to Brown: Own your words, sir.
I’m sure Brown was surprised that his comments attracted so much attention. But that is a naïve approach. In today’s world, such strong allegations are going to be get the attention. That’s the media’s job, not its fault. If Brown didn’t think Callahan “sabotaged” Oakland, then why did he say it in the first place?
Unless Brown wants to restoke the fire, or unless another teammate wants to say that Callahan threw the game, this story could be winding down. Callahan surely didn’t win the Super Bowl 10 years ago, but he might end up winning this battle.
I know some people have suggested this controversy will hurt Brown’s chances of being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a finalist. The vote is Feb. 2. I’m not sure it will play a huge role. Brown was a considered a long shot to be elected this year, and I don’t think this silliness should effect his candidacy either way.
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