Super Bowl sabotage: Inside the numbers

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The ex-Raiders head coach said under no circumstances would he throw the Super Bowl, but did he?

In 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders met in Super Bowl XXXVII, a game that pitted ex-Oakland coach Jon Gruden against his friend and current Raiders coach Bill Callahan.

Oakland went into the game favored by 3.5 points, despite having an 11-5 record compared to Tampa Bay's 12-4 mark.

Most thought it would be the Raiders' offense that would carry the day, considering it was ranked second in the league that season in yards per game and featured the soon-to-be MVP in quarterback Rich Gannon.

Of course, the Buccaneers went on to smash Oakland 48-21, winning in fine fashion.

Now, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown claims Callahan threw the game for his friend (Gruden) because he hated the organization.

Brown's premise is that Callahan had a game plan in place for the entire week leading up to the Super Bowl that called for a heavy dose of running. Then, on Friday, Callahan did an about-face and said the Raiders would feature an aerial attack. According to Brown, the team knew they had no shot going into the game.

So let's look at the numbers from that season, and see if things add up.

In 2002, Oakland threw for 4,475 yards, leading the league's next closest team, the St. Louis Rams, by 321 yards. However, the Raiders rushed for just 1,762 yards, ranking them 18th in the NFL.

In fact, Oakland didn't even feature an 1,000 yards rusher. Charlie Garner was the main back and he only gained 962 yards while amassing 941 receiving. Although his yards per attempt were excellent at 5.3.

That season, the Raiders attempted 619 passes compared to only 414 rushes, of which Gannon accounted for 50. Including the playoffs, Oakland only rushed for 100 yards or more in six of its 19 games. It passed for 300 or more yards 10 times.

On the other side, Tampa Bay ranked first in total defense that year under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who employed a Tampa-2 style of defense. That look is easy to read but tough to play against, as it drops two safeties over the top of the field while the middle linebacker (Derrick Brooks in this case) runs down the middle of the field.

The Buccaneers were almost impossible to throw against that year, allowing 427 yards less than the second-ranked Indianapolis Colts.They weren't much easier to run against, ranked sixth in the league.

In the Super Bowl, the Raiders chose to throw almost exclusively. Oakland ran the ball exactly 11 times, netting 19 yards with Gannon responsible for two of those carries.

Gannon threw 44 times, being intercepted five times with three being returned for touchdowns.

In fairness, part of the massive disparity is because Oakland fell behind very big, very early right?

Here is a breakdown of when nine of the 11 runs occurred:

  • First quarter, first series, fourth play (Tie score)
  • First quarter, first series, Gannon scrambled on fifth play (Tie Score)
  • First quarter, third series, first play (Tie Score)
  • First quarter, third series, second play (Tie Score)
  • First quarter, fourth series, second play (Tie Score)
  • Second quarter, fifth series, second play (Trailing 6-3)
  • Second quarter, seventh series, second play (Trailing 13-3)
  • Second quarter, seventh series, fourth play (Trailing 13-3)
  • Second quarter, eighth series, second play (Trailing 20-3)
  • Second quarter, eighth series, third play (Trailing 20-3)

Those are nine plays in the first half out of 30 called from scrimmage, excluding a field goal attempt. In the second half, Callahan had no choice but to throw the football down 17 points regardless of his game plan coming in.

Oakland threw the ball almost exclusively in the second half, only calling one rushing play as it was hopelessly behind. Callahan continued to call intermediate routes, which were jumped and picked off by the likes of Dexter Jackson, who became the Super Bowl's MVP.

It should also be pointed out that Callahan never got another pro head coaching gig after leaving Oakland. Most Super Bowl coaches get another shot, but not Callahan. This might be because most people in the league saw him as a lousy coach who was able to take Gruden's team to a Super Bowl.

Did Callahan's Raiders have good balance? Certainly not, but hardly out of the norm for a team that threw the ball constantly that season.

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