Raiders expected to make announcement

Originally Published: December 31, 2003 news services

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders held off making an official announcement on the job status of coach Bill Callahan on Tuesday, but some players said he'd been fired.

"Coach Callahan requested that for personal and family reasons the club make no announcement [Tuesday], and we will honor his request," Raiders chief executive Amy Trask told AP.

A formal announcement is expected Wednesday.

Callahan spent three minutes at his final news conference Monday and did not take questions. According to The Oakland Tribune, the coach met with Raiders owner Al Davis and senior assistant Bruce Allen on Tuesday and was told the option on his contract -- which potentially had two more years to run -- would not be picked up.

The Raiders finished a 4-12 season that was the team's worst since 1997 only a year after Callahan led them to the Super Bowl in his rookie season as coach.

Callahan was in a meeting at the team's headquarters Tuesday afternoon, but his office later said he left for the day. A call to his agent, Gary O'Hagan, was not immediately returned Tuesday evening.

Callahan's son, Brian, is a freshman backup quarterback for UCLA, which played in the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose on Tuesday night.

"I'm just sad about how everything happened," Raiders center Barret Robbins told the AP on Tuesday evening. "It was hard not to [support him], because he gave me an opportunity to come back."

The Raiders would become the seventh NFL team without a coach. Steve Spurrier resigned as coach of the Washington Redskins on Tuesday. A day earlier, Dick Jauron of the Chicago Bears, Gregg Williams of the Buffalo Bills and Dave McGinnis of the Arizona Cardinals all were fired.

Earlier, the New York Giants fired Jim Fassel and the Atlanta Falcons dismissed Dan Reeves.

The Raiders tied with San Diego, Arizona and the Giants for the worst record in the NFL. They ended their season with a 21-14 loss Sunday at San Diego.

There has been speculation for weeks Callahan would be fired. Several players said they expected and welcomed the ouster of Callahan, who last month called his squad "the dumbest team in America" and suspended key players Charles Woodson and Charlie Garner for the season finale for missing curfew.

Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has been outspoken in his criticism of Callahan. He has called Callahan stubborn and said the coach lost the respect of his team.

"He's really made this thing personal. When things get personal, it's not a good situation to be around people that it's personal with," Woodson said Monday. "I won't play for him.

"He's not the type of person you want to be around. He's just really brought a really negative vibe to this team over the course of the season."

Raiders owner Al Davis, whose team was not able to live up to his "Just Win, Baby!" motto this season, is not known for his patience with coaches.

MVP quarterback Rich Gannon said Tuesday that sweeping change was necessary.

"It's gotten to the point it's inevitable there's got to be change," Gannon said.

The Raiders made costly mistakes in all phases of the game throughout the season, and often beat themselves with penalties. After Oakland's 22-8 loss to the Denver Broncos late last month, Callahan erupted.

"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."

The Raiders had 12 players on injured reserve this season, including Gannon and his backup, Marques Tuiasosopo. And four players face suspensions from the NFL after testing positive for the newly discovered steroid THG, a source told AP on condition of anonymity.

Several Raiders expressed support for Callahan, saying he deserved another chance to win with his own team rather than players he inherited from former coach Jon Gruden, who bolted for Tampa Bay following the 2001 season.

Callahan, a seven-year NFL assistant who had no head coaching experience, was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Gruden.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.