Gannon calls last six weeks 'disgraceful'

Updated: December 30, 2003, 9:19 PM ET
Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Rich Gannon realized the Oakland Raiders had major problems well before this season's debacle began.

Personnel. Discipline. Play-calling.

It was also apparent to last season's league MVP during training camp that Oakland's revised offense was too complicated for all the young players, and it just wasn't going to work.

Gannon called for sweeping change Tuesday in his first public statement since getting knocked out of the Raiders' 17-10 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 20 and later having surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a torn labrum.

"I wouldn't say I'd take a torch to the place, but it wouldn't be far from that," said Gannon, who was headed into a meeting with owner Al Davis. "It's going to take special people to turn this thing around."

The Raiders finished a 4-12 season with a 21-14 loss to San Diego on Sunday, and second-year coach Bill Callahan is under fire less than a year after guiding the franchise to its third straight AFC West title and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Oakland posted its worst record since also going 4-12 in 1997. The Raiders tied with three other teams for fewest wins in the league in the biggest collapse by a team that reached the Super Bowl the previous year.

The 38-year-old Gannon would like to remain with the Raiders, whether Callahan is coaching them or not. He hasn't thrown since his Nov. 13 surgery, but his rehab is ahead of schedule and he's expected to be ready for spring minicamps.

Yet the Raiders might opt not to take on the $7 million salary Gannon is set to make in 2004. The quarterback believes he unfairly became the organization's scapegoat in the first seven weeks of the season when no one stepped forward to take responsibility for the failures.

"This team has won with me," Gannon said. "It's a simple question: Is this team better off with me or without me? That's a decision that they'll make, and it's the bottom line.

"I've been one that's more than happy to restructure and to do whatever I can to help the team in terms of the cap. But if they ask me to take a penny less, I'd say no. I think I earn every penny I make. I think I'm a value to this football team. I've been that way the last four seasons, and I don't think anyone can argue that point."

Gannon supported Callahan's decision to enforce team rules and deactivate star cornerback Charles Woodson and running back Charlie Garner for Sunday's season finale at San Diego for missing curfew. But the quarterback also questioned the way coaches handled other situations.

It was after the Raiders' 23-13 loss at Detroit on Nov. 2, when Woodson twice came out publicly against Callahan, that Gannon believes the season began spiraling downward for good.

"We all have to accept responsibility for what transpired this year," said Gannon, a 16-year NFL veteran. "This is a complete embarrassment to this organization, you know, for the players, and for the coaches, and for the owner, and for everybody involved, general manager. We all have to accept responsibility. But for me, that was very difficult. And I need more, I have to demand more out of people around me.

"I've done it in the past. I demand it, and I ask for more out of our coaches. That's stuff that needs to get addressed and fixed, and it didn't. Not to my liking. It just continued to get worse, to the point where I would go out there the last five, six weeks of the season, and it was disgraceful."

Gannon described a practice leading into the season opener at Tennessee -- which the Raiders lost 25-20 -- when he had an "emotional eruption" because he didn't agree with Callahan's offensive system.

And the Raiders were ill-prepared heading into the game, Gannon said.

"I think that, in hindsight, we would have been better off going down to Tennessee and probably playing our second-team guys, seriously, and taken a beating and coming back and starting the season the next week," he said. "But it just didn't turn out that way."

Last season, Gannon led the league's top offense and broke the NFL completions record with 418. He led the league with 4,689 yards passing, nearly becoming just the second quarterback to go over 5,000 yards in a season. Dan Marino threw for 5,084 yards in 1984.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press