Saturday, January 26, 2013

Super Bowl XXXVII: A Cautionary Tale

When I was growing up, the Oakland Raiders were the most successful team in the NFL.

Well, with the exception of Super Bowl championships. They were damn near unbeatable during the regular season, but they usually came up just short of the Super Bowl in the playoffs.

They won a few Super Bowls in the late '70s and early to mid–80s, but then the Raiders found themselves wandering the NFL's wilderness for nearly two decades — until they appeared in Super Bowl XXXVII 10 years ago today.

But the Raiders lost to Tampa Bay on that day, 48–21, and they haven't been back to the Super Bowl since.

Ten years ago today, the Raiders gave up more points than any team has allowed in any Super Bowl since San Diego gave up 49 points to San Francisco in 1995.

I always thought that was just bad luck for the Raiders. They had the NFL's best offense, and they were favored by four points — but the Buccaneers had the league's best defense, and Tampa Bay picked off Oakland QB Rich Gannon five times.

Dexter Jackson had two interceptions in the first half, making him the first player to do that in the Super Bowl. Teammates Dwight Smith and Derrick Brooks picked off the other three passes and ran them back for touchdowns in the second half.

I attributed the Raiders' woes to the fact that Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay's coach, had been Oakland's coach for the four previous years and knew a great deal about Oakland's personnel. I felt it gave him an edge in preparing for the Super Bowl.

But Tim Brown, wide receiver for the Raiders at the time, is alleging that Gruden's replacement in Oakland, Bill Callahan, deliberately undermined the Raiders.

Brown said Callahan changed the offensive game plan at the last minute, shifting the emphasis from the ground game to an aerial attack, and "blew this thing up."

As a result, Brown said, the Raiders went into the game "absolutely knowing that we [had] no shot."

"There's only one potential flaw in Brown's logic," writes NBC's Mike Florio. "He assumes that the new game plan came from Callahan. Who's to say that the order to throw the ball 60 times didn't come from the late Al Davis, who had a special affinity for throwing the football, and also for meddling directly in the coaching of the team?"

That's a good point.

Now, even though I live in Dallas, Texas, I am not a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. More to the point, I suppose, I am not a fan of Jerry Jones.

I have lived here for 20 of the last 24 years. I was working for an area newspaper as a sports writer/editor when Jones bought the Cowboys. I covered the press conference in which he announced the hiring of Jimmy Johnson to be the successor to Tom Landry.

And I have watched Jones display all the worst, most meddlesome and tyrannical characteristics that guys like Al Davis and George Steinbrenner possessed.

As a result, I'm inclined to think that what Florio writes should serve as a cautionary tale for Jones and those who would follow his example.

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