Al Davis subscribed to a simple mantra: just win baby.
But during the mid-90s, the Oakland Raiders were doing a little less of that than what the man in charge was used to. Looking for a fix, Davis brought in Jon Gruden to lead his team. Patience through two eight-and-eight seasons was rewarded in 2000 when the Raiders won their first division title since 1990. Their 12-and-4 campaign came to a halt though against the eventual champion Ravens, in part due to a Tony Siragusa belly flop that knocked Gannon out in the second quarter. A season later, the story was the same - this time falling in even more heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots and Tom Brady’s infamous tuck.
Having come so close, the Raiders knew they were nearly there. Rich Gannon had turned into an All-Pro quarterback, which had helped Tim Brown continue his dominance to the tune of nine consecutive thousand-yard seasons. In addition to dual-threat running back Charlie Garner, the Raiders offensive explosion was aided by Jerry Rice deciding to don the silver and black. With defenses focusing on so many weapons, Jerry Porter became a key piece as the team’s deep threat.
Much of the credit for piecing it all together goes to Bill Callahan, Oakland’s offensive coordinator who followed Gruden to the bay. But after the loss to the Pats, Callahan stepped into an even bigger position. Seemingly out of nowhere, with Gruden’s contract up in the air, Davis traded his head coach to Tampa Bay in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-rounders, and eight-million dollars. Callahan took the reins, looking to finish what Gruden started.
And in 2002, the Raiders looked even better. Their defense with nine new starters caught up to the offense. A linebacking core led by newcomer Bill Romanowski helped set the tone. Like their fans in the black hole, they were built to intimidate opposing offenses, which was made easier by defensive tackle Rod Coleman bearing down on quarterbacks. Rising star Charles Woodson was locked in at corner while another veteran newcomer Rod Woodson made the secondary a turnover machine.
Gannon put together an MVP season. Rice and Brown never lost a step. Garner did what no one else in the league that year could do with 900 yards rushing and receiving. And after a third straight division title the Raiders glided past the Jets and Titans for a chance to win the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl.
And in order to do that, all that sat in their way was a familiar face. How hard could it be? Find out by watching this episode of Collapse.