Raiders coach explains post-game remark
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Bill Callahan tried to massage his message Monday after the coach called his Oakland Raiders the "dumbest team in America."
"I totally respect our players and always have," Callahan said a day after Oakland's 22-8 loss to the Denver Broncos. "My problem is not with our players, it's the way we play.
"As you look at the way we are in crunch-time situations, we're in field-position situations that we just give away field position. We give away drives. We give away the opportunity to get off the field or continue drives.
"They've been killers in every respect. Again, let me reiterate it's our play. It's not our players."
Over and over again, he repeated those words. Then, he clarified his comments to his players in a team meeting.
"Everything's OK, man," special teams player Eric Johnson said in the parking lot on his way out for the day. "It wasn't really anything to apologize for. You guys didn't really hear what he said. He was saying it was our play. He clarified it. ... I think the whole thing was taken out of context."
Jerry Porter, the team's brash receiver, waved in the locker room and quickly disappeared, but not before saying, "Whew, forest fire."
A season after reaching the Super Bowl, the Raiders dropped to 3-9 with a penalty-plagued defeat.
"We've got to be the dumbest team in America in terms of playing the game," Callahan shouted to reporters after the home loss.
"I'm highly critical because of the way we give games away -- we give 'em away! Period. It's embarrassing, and I represent that. And I apologize for that. If that's the best we can do, it's a sad product."
On Monday, Callahan was still upset with the Raiders' 11 penalties and three lost fumbles. Oakland failed to get into the end zone for the first time since the AFC championship game in 2000 against Baltimore.
"I'm mad about it and I'm upset and I want to rectify it," he said. "It's about time it gets done. It's too late in the season to make the same types of mistakes we're making.
"I'm just tired of seeing the same repetitive fouls and the repetitive mistakes occur in game situations that have cost us wins. This is about winning, and it's holding us back from achieving our goal."
While his players agree they have been beating themselves, they didn't appreciate being called dumb.
"Basically, he just spoke his mind, how he feels about this team," injured safety Rod Woodson said. "Good, bad or indifferent, it's done."
Receiver Tim Brown, the longest-tenured Raider, said he was considering addressing the team in a players-only meeting.
Can the fragile Raiders even tell the difference when Callahan says, "It's the play, not the players"?
"That's a tough distinction to make, especially if you're that guy," Woodson said. "When you're 3-9, anything can be taken out of context and everything is going to be negative.
"We had these problems last year, but we were winning and it didn't matter. When you're 3-9, they matter."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press