Monday, December 29, 2003
Updated: December 30, 9:20 PM ET
Woodson rips coach for benching
ESPN.com news services
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Beleaguered Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan looked the way he always does on Mondays following gameday: extremely tired with a day's worth of stubble on his face.
But the words he spoke, and those he didn't, conveyed a deeper
sense of uncertainty about his future with a franchise that only a
year ago he guided to the Super Bowl as a rookie head coach.
Callahan summed up the season in three minutes Monday, then
marched out of the room without fielding questions.
The coach, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, already has cleared out his office in anticipation of being fired.
The Raiders finished a dismal 4-12 season with a 21-14 loss to
San Diego. Oakland posted its worst record since also going 4-12 in
1997. The Raiders tied with three other teams for fewest wins in
the league in the biggest collapse by a team that reached the Super
Bowl the previous year.
For their poor performance, the Raiders earned the No. 2 pick in
next year's draft.
"I addressed the team this morning and thanked them all for
their efforts and contributions this season," said Callahan, who
has refused to speculate whether he'll return next season, saying
it's out of his control. "I know that we're all disappointed in
the outcome, as I stated before, but I accept full and complete
responsibility for the lack of success that we've had this year.
"As I told the team, I believe that we all learned some
invaluable lessons, but the great thing is that we can all move
forward and learn from this experience, personally and
The players seemed just as eager to get away as Callahan. Jerry Rice rolled down his car window, smiled and waved as he pulled away from team headquarters.
Charles Woodson made time to express his frustrations with
Callahan, who deactivated Woodson and running back Charlie Garner before Sunday's game for missing curfew.
Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback who could become a free agent, has been one of Callahan's most outspoken critics. He has
called Callahan stubborn and said he lost the respect of his team.
"He's really made this thing personal," Woodson said Monday.
"When things get personal, it's not a good situation to be around
people that it's personal with. I won't play for him.
"He's not the type of person you want to be around. He's just
really brought a really negative vibe to this team over the course
of the season."
Callahan defended his decision not to play Garner and Woodson,
citing his suspending center Barret Robbins for the Super Bowl
after he disappeared the day before and missed team meetings.
"And my decision to bench them was predicated solely as my
responsibility as a head football coach and also as responsibility
to this team," Callahan said.
"The bottom line is that we're all accountable and as an
organization, and I feel strongly that as a society, we cannot
function without structure and we cannot function without
discipline. There are consequences.
"I'm paid to manage this team, and in all fairness to the other
team members I had to do what was necessary, as any leader would do
in any organization. I cannot and will not accept lack of
discipline on this football team."
Yet Woodson claims Callahan acted out of resentment. Woodson had
already begun changing his clothes when he was called into
Callahan's office before the game.
Woodson said he walked out on the coach while Callahan was still
speaking. He and Garner flew home and skipped the game. Woodson did
not attend a short team meeting Monday morning.
"Why?" he said.
"I didn't give him a chance to finish what he was saying
because I knew he was doing it out of spite," Woodson said.
"There was no reason for me to sit in there and listen any further
to what he was talking about."
Bickering and infighting have been the theme of the Raiders'
It didn't help that 12 players were lost for the season with
injuries, including 2002 MVP quarterback Rich Gannon, and his
backup, Marques Tuiasosopo. Not to mention almost the entire
While Callahan does have his supporters among the players,
plenty of Raiders believe change is needed.
Raiders owner Al Davis, whose team was not able to live up to
his "Just Win, Baby!" motto this season, is not known for his
patience with coaches.
Even Tim Brown, the longest-tenured Raider, has his concerns
"I don't know if he's the guy who can bring this team back
together," Brown said. "This year, he made things personal with
this team. You can't do that. If he's back, it's going to take two
to three years to fix this, because nobody trusts a word he says."