Conspiracy theory
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown went on a San Francisco radio station Monday night and made some of the most remarkable allegations you'll ever hear about an NFL coach. If what Brown said is true, Pete Rose has nothing on Bill Callahan.

Tolbert's Take
When a classy guy and future NFL Hall of Famer like Tim Brown sounds off like this about his coach, it speaks volumes.

Based on what Brown told me Monday night on my radio show, it sounds like Raiders coach Bill Callahan didn't want to be in Oakland anymore -- in fact, didn't want to be there at all this season. You don't call your linemen "fat" in front of the whole team. You don't tell your players that you don't need or want them as friends (because you've got your own friends). You don't tell your defensive front seven that you'd love to call plays against them. That's weird stuff.

What do those bizarre statements accomplish? Nothing constructive at all. In fact, all it does is turn everybody against you.

When I played basketball for current Mavericks coach Don Nelson, I'd get ripped on a daily basis -- but it was never personal. Nellie would say, "Move your ass up the court" ... but never, "You're a fat ass."

When Brown used the word "sabotage" to describe Callahan's behavior, it seemed to me that he was saying this: When you look back at Oakland's season and put all the pieces together, Callahan's actions and demeanor indicate that he was either trying to coach his way out of Oakland or trying to sabotage his team's season.

Brown told me that he won't return to the Raiders next season if Callahan is still the coach (and added that a number of his teammates feel the same way).

How did the Raiders go from the Super Bowl to being so abysmal so fast? Brown said the negativity started in the team's first offseason minicamp. But he said there were also issues with Callahan last season. When you're winning, though, problems get smoothed over.

Last season, Brown said, Callahan's negative energy was directed at other teams and opposing players. But in this 4-12 season, the coach's negative energy was directed toward his own team, according to Brown. And the results were predictable.

Besides being an NBA analyst for ESPN, Tom Tolbert hosts a sports radio talk show on KNBR in San Francisco.

The gist of Brown's assault? Callahan "sabotaged" the team's season.

Brown did not suggest this was accidental sabotage, either. He suggested that Callahan had it in for someone in the front office, and just about everything he did from the first day of training camp until Sunday's loss to the Chargers was done with blatant disregard for wins and losses.

Callahan changed the team's offense for no reason other than sabotage. Callahan injected a negative attitude onto the team for no reason other than sabotage. Callahan deactivated Charles Woodson and Charlie Garner before Sunday's loss to the Chargers for no reason other than spite and sabotage.

I was driving as I listened to this, and my jaw was resting on the steering wheel. A Hall of Fame receiver, one who spent his whole career with Team Dysfunction, suggested repeatedly over the course of an hour that his head coach intentionally put his team in a position to lose games.

Have we ever heard anything close to this damning? We always knew the Raiders were the most unusual franchise in professional sports, but could it have deteriorated to this point? Commitment to Sabotage? Just lose intentionally, baby.

Brown said Callahan would spend time during practice telling the team they had no chance of winning that week's game.

He said Callahan repeatedly belittled his players to the point where nobody wanted to play for the coach.

He said Callahan came in at halftime of a game in which the Raiders were leading the Broncos and said, "Well, we haven't turned the ball over yet." The Raiders, evidently swayed by the power of suggestion, had three turnovers in the second half and lost.

"He coached to get fired," Brown said.

Brown also provided a history lesson, saying Callahan -- then an assistant -- twice walked out on the team in the final games of the 1998 and 1999 season. Just took his headset off and left the field, saying he didn't want to be associated with such folk as the Raiders.

An obviously fawning caller made a joking reference to Brown, saying he should have let the fans know about this weeks ago so the fans could have taken care of it in the parking lot.

Brown laughed, but the caller hit on something important: If the Raiders believed their coach was actively sabotaging their chances -- deliberately, no less -- didn't they have an obligation to themselves and their fans to make it public before the season ended?

Judging by his read-the-speech, leave-the-podium routine of the past two days, Callahan is not likely to respond to Brown's allegations.

One thing is clear, though: This was either the most vigorous plea for a coach's firing in history, or the most phenomenal shredding of a coach's character ever heard in public.

Just goes to show: There's a whole weird world out there, and then there are the Raiders.

This Year's List

  • Hell hath no fury like an announcer scorned: The best play-by-play of the season had to be the Vikings' guy who screamed "No! No!" when the Cardinals scored to win Sunday's game.
  • A suggestion for the next time that clip is played: Run it like a 911 tape, with the words superimposed on the screen.
  • Wife of the Year, again: Brenda Warner, the Cy Young of sports wives.
  • Best example of a fired coach peeing down his leg in an attempt to impugn the media and gain undeserved sympathy: Rick Neuheisel, looking into the cameras and saying, "This is about my life."
  • Most bizarre phone call: Bill Clinton calling Sammy Sosa and telling him to "hang in there" after the cork incident.
  • Best reason to be traded to the American League: Before being traded to the Red Sox, reliever Scott Williamson swore the hotel the Reds stayed in during an interleague trip to St. Petersburg was haunted.
  • Just for the heck of it: Martha Burk.
  • This year's fun couple: Peyton Manning and Mike Vanderjagt.
  • Most un-American statement by a Sportsman of the Year: David Robinson, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who said that people who don't agree with the President should leave the country.
  • First annual "Du-uu-uu-de, get ahold of yourself" award: Joe Namath.
  • Exhumation of the year: Steve Kerr, in the NBA Finals.
  • Best example of why athletes aren't like the rest of us: Tony Parker, who got food poisoning from bad cheese.
  • Remember this low point?: Greta Van Susteren and Mike Tyson.
  • This year's top prediction: Auburn, national champ.
  • And finally, a tribute to the man who embodied the strength and beauty of 2003, a man who began his year by breaking a teammate's jaw in a fit of rage and ended it with a trip to the stand in the BALCO grand jury investigation: Ladies and gentlemen: Bill Romanowski.
  • Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.





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