When coach isn't first class
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

The topic is coaches and their responses to difficult times, and Exhibit A is Raiders coach Bill Callahan. Obviously invoking the Popeye Rule ("I've takes'd all I can ..."), Callahan shed his sleepy demeanor after Sunday's 11-penalty debacle and said the words that will follow him forever: "We must be the dumbest team in America."

They've been wracked by dissension, suspension and pretension, and now the Raiders are being called stupid by their own coach. Setting aside the undeniability of Callahan's statement -- and truth is the ultimate defense -- you have to ask yourself an important question: Is this any way to rally the troops?

Bill Callahan
Chances are that Bill Callahan doesn't have something in his game plan that can win back the loyalty of his players.
Did he call everybody into a circle on Monday and say, "Look guys, the past is the past. Now let's all commit to getting smarter together"?

Callahan was probably gone anyway, but he could have achieved the same goal Sunday if he had entered his postgame press conference and yelled "Fire me! Fire me!" into the microphone. When steering the Good Ship Al, it's always best to keep your true feelings hidden, in the best tradition of Mike White and Joe Bugel. Then again, Davis waited until Christmas Eve to wrap up a special firing for White, so maybe obliviousness doesn't always have its rewards.

Some guys, like Callahan, can't help but show the strain. Jim Fassel looks like a tick with hypertension after a tough loss. Mike Tice is starting to look like he wants to bust somebody up; another loss this weekend, and things in Minnesota might turn into a Sopranos episode.

Then there's Herman Edwards, whose anger seems to be best employed in defending his players. He gives off strong vibes of independence and defiance, and his players play hard for him even in the worst of times. It's no coincidence he's never called out his players' intelligence, or openly apologized for their performance. Here's guessing he and guys like him stay employed longer than the guys who look like they're about to pass a stone every time they fall behind by more than a touchdown.

This Week's List

  • Sometimes, the impossible happens: Bill Parcells is becoming more endearing -- okay, a little tiny bit endearing -- as he takes a ridiculously undertalented team to pretty decent heights.

  • Upon closer reading of the previous item: Diagram that sentence, Grammar Boy.

  • All right, you're a good coach, but please, no more lectures: Brian Billick.

  • Around our house we call it Precision in Broadcasting: Last week, Dick Stockton described an on-field scuffle as "breaking out among members of the various lines."

  • Why they should play the Super Bowl in Springfield this year: Rams vs. Chiefs.

  • And if they played it in Seattle ... The Seahawks, 7-0 at home.

  • It took a couple of tough years, but it turns out Mike Holmgren was right again: Matt Hasselbeck, MVP candidate?

  • Rivalry week doubleheader: Florida and Florida State, the game and the post-game.

  • Schilling or Sheffield?: Give me Sheffield.

  • While we're on the topic of astute acquisitions: Brad Miller, Sacramento Kings. Get the guy out of the Eastern Conference and he becomes a poor man's Bill Walton.

  • And you know your team is dumb when: Bill Romanowski goes on IR and the team's average IQ actually goes down.

  • 'Tis the year of situational ethics: TCU, no doubt insulted by having to settle for the GMAC Bowl, decides final exams are more important than a bowl game.

  • And let's be honest here: A pop quiz in weight-training class is more important than the GMAC Bowl.

  • This far into the NBA season, and I only have one pressing question: Who did Jermaine O'Neal hire as his personal trainer after last season ended?

  • Just for the heck of it: Pace Mannion.

  • You could make a really nasty comment about cornfields, dust and inbreeding if you were built that way: If Mike had waited just one more day before accepting the position at Arizona, next year's Nebraska-Oklahoma game could have been Stoops vs. Stoops.

  • Yet another reason star professional athletes are different from the rest of us: A brief clip Monday afternoon showed Steve McNair warming up wearing baggy sweats with a butt pack wrapped around his waist.

  • Just saying the words together is enough to make you laugh: Lawrence Taylor and Mike Wallace.

  • I know all the kids in my neighborhood are wearing the latest in South Florida garb: One of the reasons Cincinnati fired coach Rick Minter was because the Bearcats were the only soon-to-be Big East team -- along with South Florida and Louisville -- that doesn't have a national following.

  • It's one of those rare moments that makes you think of the words "progress" and "ass-backward" at the same time: Sylvester Croom, first black coach in the history of the SEC.

  • How come nobody runs around yelling about how the Saints are screwing with the balance of power in the NFL?: New Orleans, of all teams, has the highest payroll in the NFL at $85.8 million.

  • Maybe I need glasses, but : To me, LeBron James looks five years older than Carmelo Anthony.

  • And finally, we're supposed to believe there's a movie studio out there willing to give the man $10 million but unwilling to wait a couple months to give it?: While incarcerated for the past two months, Jose Canseco says he had to turn down a three-movie deal worth $10 million.

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.



    Tim Keown Archive

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    Keown: You're unbelievable

    Keown: Little hope

    Keown: The Myth of Zim

    Keown: Boston public

    Keown: Still cursed

    Keown: Hero Herm

    Keown: Liar liar

    Keown: Officially bad

    Keown: NFL Season's dreams

    Keown: New Number won

    Keown: Preseason profiting

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