Former Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) wide receiver/return specialist Tim Brown is among the 15 modern-era finalists in 2013 for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The sixth overall pick of the 1988 NFL draft has an impressive résumé, too.
Over 17 seasons, Brown caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns, ranking in the top three in all three statistical categories at the time of his retirement. Brown was a dangerous return specialist, leading the NFL in return yards as a rookie and scoring four touchdowns on returns during his 17-year career. Nearly 10 seasons after leaving the organization, and despite the rules allowing for greater success in the passing game, Brown remains the Raiders' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and total touchdowns (104).
Brown is a nine-time Pro Bowler, including seven as a receiver and two as a kick returner, and was an All-Pro kick returner as a rookie and an All-Pro receiver after leading the NFL in reception in 1997.
If there's one thing that Brown's Hall of Fame résumé lacks, it's a Super Bowl ring. The Raiders reached the Super Bowl once during Brown's 16 seasons with the franchise, advancing to Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season. The Raiders lost 48-21 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were coached by Jon Gruden, Oakland's head coach from 1998-2001.
Brown pins that loss on Gruden's replacement, Bill Callahan, who allegedly changed the game plan less than 48 hours before the Super Bowl.
"We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we’re gonna run the ball,” Brown said last Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “We averaged 340 (pounds) on the offensive line, they averaged 280 (on the defensive line). We’re all happy with that, everybody is excited. (We) tell Charlie Garner, ‘Look, you’re not gonna get too many carries, but at the end of the day we’re gonna get a victory. Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett, let’s get ready to blow this thing up'."
At this point, we should mention that the Buccaneers led the NFL in total defense and scoring defense in 2002, allowing just 252.8 yards of total offense and 12.3 points per game. That undersized defensive front yielded 97.1 rushing yards per game, which ranked fifth in the NFL that regular season, and the team was first in passing yards allowed per game and per play. In the postseason, the Buccaneers held the San Francisco 49ers to 228 yards of offense (58 on the ground) and the Philadelphia Eagles to 312 yards of offense, including 72 rushing yards. Oakland gained just 269 yards in Super Bowl XXXVII and only had 19 yards on 11 rushing attempts.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, former ESPN analyst Jon Ritchie, a fullback on the 2002 Raiders, confirms Brown's statements that what they practiced during the week was not what was called during the game, a point he has made on television in his years as an analyst. The decision to not run the ball may have also been affected by the late-week disappearance of center Barrett Robbins, a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection that season who stopped taking medication for his depression. Robbins returned to the team before the game, but was inactive and replaced by Adam Treu, who had played just two snaps on offense during the 2002 season, according to official playing-time documents.
Brown, however, suggests that Callahan may have thrown the game out of loyalty to Gruden and a dislike of the Raiders, who would fire him following a 4-12 season in 2003.
"We all called it sabotage...because Callahan and Gruden were good friends," Brown said. "And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach....It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.
"But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game we changed our game plan. And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot. That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up."
Callahan would spend four seasons at the University of Nebraska before returning to the NFL in 2008 as the assistant head coach/offensive line coach with the New York Jets. Callahan is currently the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys.
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