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Raiders' Callahan dismissed after two seasons

Posted: Wednesday December 31, 2003 1:41PM; Updated: Wednesday December 31, 2003 2:25PM
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Bill Callahan
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
By the Numbers
Bill Callahan's coaching record
Year W L T
2002 * 11 5 0
2003 4 12 0
Totals 15 17 0
* -- Advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- Bill Callahan was fired by the Oakland Raiders just one year after taking them to the Super Bowl as a rookie head coach.

The team announced the move Wednesday, a day after telling Callahan, who went 15-17 overall. He asked the Raiders to delay the official word because his son Brian's college team, UCLA, played in a bowl game Tuesday night.

Openly criticized by his players, Callahan went 4-12 this season, the Raiders' worst record since 1997 and the biggest fall by a team that had reached the Super Bowl the previous year. He was fired shortly after MVP quarterback Rich Gannon criticized Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman for a bad offensive system.

Gannon met with owner Al Davis on Tuesday.

Callahan, a seven-year NFL assistant with no previous head coaching experience, was promoted from offensive coordinator when Jon Gruden went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season. Gruden's Bucs beat Callahan's Raiders 48-21 in the 2003 Super Bowl.

This season, though, the Raiders tied with the Chargers, Cardinals and Giants for the worst record in the NFL. They ended their season with a 21-14 loss Sunday at San Diego.

There was speculation for weeks that Callahan would be dismissed. Now the Raiders are the seventh NFL team without a head coach -- nearly a quarter of the league.

"I don't think he was happy there, and I don't think everybody was happy with him," left guard Frank Middleton said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I felt like something had to be done, either with the players or with the coach.

"I don't think he should have been fired. He coached through a lot of injuries this year. I don't think it was all his fault."

Callahan's agent, Gary O'Hagan, declined comment. Callahan is thought to be headed to Tampa Bay to join Gruden's staff.

Several players earlier said they expected and welcomed a coaching change. Last month, Callahan called his squad "the dumbest team in America," and then suspended stars Charles Woodson and Charlie Garner for the season finale for missing curfew.

Woodson was among Callahan's harshest critics, saying the coach is stubborn and lost control of his team.

Callahan faced tough circumstances this season with players in all major positions getting hurt, including Gannon and backup QB Marques Tuiasosopo. They were among 12 players to go on injured reserve.

Still, with so many players back from an AFC championship team, Callahan acknowledged the Raiders underachieved.

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.

Callahan, who earned $1 million a season, just completed the second year of a two-year contract, and Davis declined a series of one-year club options that could have kept Callahan in Oakland through the 2006 season.

The Raiders made costly mistakes in all phases of the game throughout this season, and often beat themselves with penalties. After Oakland's 22-8 loss to the Denver Broncos on Nov. 30, Callahan erupted.

"We've got to be the dumbest team in America in terms of playing the game!" Callahan shouted to reporters. "I'm highly critical because of the way we give games away -- we give 'em away! Period. It's embarrassing, and I represent that. And I apologize for that. If that's the best we can do, it's a sad product."

Some potential replacements are former Vikings and Stanford head coach Dennis Green, former Raiders head coach Art Shell, and the other recently fired NFL head coaches. Also mentioned are several top assistants -- including 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora and Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who was fired Tuesday.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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