NFP: Super Bowl loss not Robbins' fault

QUOTE: "At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing the norm."
– Confucius


Robbins, left, played nine games for the Raiders after the Super Bowl AWOL.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

FROM FOX 26 IN HOUSTON … "It's a hard thing to look back on because it was such a hard thing to overcome," [Barret] Robbins said in the interview. "It was such a hard thing to forgive myself for. As much as you want to do it, forgive yourself that is, it's the hardest thing in the world to do. I felt that if I had played that game, we had a lot better chance to win. I felt we would have been able to win that game. It was an extremely exhausting event and put me down as far as I probably ever had to go at that point in my life."

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"They forget about the losses and exaggerate the wins"
– Jackson Browne

This is one loss I will never forget – never. This is always a hard memory to rekindle; in fact, every time I see Shania Twain doing anything, I get an awful feeling in my stomach as she was the halftime entertainment of Super Bowl XXXVII. On one hand, it makes me happy to see that Robbins is doing better and taking responsibility for his actions – which we all know is the first step on the long road to recovery.

However, the reality is that had Robbins played in the game, the outcome would have been the same. I'm not trying to take him off the hook for the huge distraction he caused the day before the biggest game of the season because he was a huge distraction. Yet going back over that week (which I have done many times), there were other factors that led to the loss.

Factor No. 1: Robbins was not healthy going into the game. He had not practiced all week, and his availability for the game, in fact, was going to be a game-time decision. Robbins was a very tough-minded player; there is no doubt he would have attempted to play, but playing on one leg while trying to handle Warren Sapp(notes) with any effectiveness may have led to his leaving the game shortly thereafter. Robbins' practice repetitions were taken by his backup center, Adam Treu(notes) – a very smart, very prepared player who could make all the line calls. The problem was not the line calls; the problem was blocking their front. Further, we had the best player in the game making all the line calls – Rich Gannon. Gannon handled all things on offense, from the check-with-me play calls at the line of scrimmage to the shifts, the movements, the snap count. He was in full control of the game plan designed by head coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.


Factor No. 2: In my career, I've made many mistakes from watching tape of teams. However, two mistakes seem to linger in my memory. The first was watching the 2000 Baltimore Ravens' defense and misjudging its overall speed. Yes, the guys were fast on tape, but they were much faster in person then they ever appeared on tape. They closed down lanes with extreme suddenness that appeared on tape but radiated more in person. An example of this problem happens when you play teams in a dome. Often when you play a team in a dome, you feel a sense of urgency. You feel rushed, like you're under the gun. When you watch the tape on the plane ride home, you don't feel that urgency – all you see on the tape are opportunities missed. That's the same feeling you had watching the Ravens in person, then on tape. Had I seen the Ravens in person, the speed of the game might have been slightly more impressive. Mistake No. 2 was the same mistake, only this time it was the Bucs' defense. We knew those guys were fast, we knew they could close down quickly, but their speed in person was just explosive. Bottom line, they were just quicker on defense than we were on offense. It had nothing to do with who played center.

Factor No. 3: For some reason, the NFL decided to change its usual policy of having a two-week break between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The one-week break was devastating for our team because we were older, could have used the rest and could have used the time to regroup, re-energize and refocus. This one week created a very hectic period in terms of game planning, logistics and handling all the personal issues that come with being in the Super Bowl. That's not an excuse for losing since the Bucs faced the same obstacles, but more than anything, the time off to rest really hurt our older team.

Factor No. 4: The Gruden factor. Yes, Jon "Love You Bro" Gruden knew the Raiders' talent inside and out. He knew how defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan was thinking defense, how he called the game and the talent that was on the field (this was evidenced by the third call of the game, a double move on Charles Woodson(notes), which was intercepted, but nonetheless, the concept was the right one). Gruden knew how Rich Gannon thought – what made him comfortable as much as what made him uncomfortable. He knew the Raiders inside and out, there was no denying that. To overcome this kind of insider information would have required a team much more talented than the opponent. Dan Henning, the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, once told me, "If you do not have any tendencies on offense, you are not any good." He is so right. In this case, they knew what we were going to do, but they were just better on that day.

I genuinely hope Barret Robbins can get his life back in order, for his girls and for his own well-being. Taking a step toward responsibility is a great move, but feeling the burden of this loss is not all his fault. The short week and the Robbins distractions all were factors, but the real factor was that on that Sunday, the best team won.

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