Throughout the Oakland Raiders struggles in the 2003 season, most people have said that head coach Bill Callahan will be looking for work elsewhere.
Callahan may suffer that fate but it's not as much of a two-inch putt as many people are inclined to think. The Raiders are 4-10 and close their season with a home game against Green Bay Monday night and a road game at San Diego on Dec. 28.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Callahan will be let go at the end of the season. Callahan and cornerback Charles Woodson have feuded. In addition, Callahan referred to his club as "the dumbest team in America in terms of the way we play the game" after Oakland lost to Denver 22-8.
The Raiders lost to Pittsburgh 27-7 the ensuing week and were accused of quitting in the process. Oakland, however, showed a lot of pride and defeated the Baltimore Ravens 20-12 Sunday.
Therefore the question continues: Will Callahan return for a third season as the Raiders head coach? Raiders owner Al Davis is the only one who knows for certain but the feeling from this corner is that there's about a 20 percent chance of Callahan returning.
Callahan has been the Raiders head coach for two seasons but it's hard to objectively evaluate him as a head coach based on his two seasons.
A year ago, he replaced Jon Gruden and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl. Callahan put his own stamp on the team by transforming Oakland from a ball-control oriented team to a pass-happy bunch. Callahan, however, should not get all of the credit because there were a lot of residual effects from Gruden's leadership.
The Raiders have fallen on hard times this season but Callahan only deserves some of the blame. Oakland has dealt with a truckload of injuries with 10 players currently on injured reserve. Adding to the off-field distractions such as the Woodson/Callahan feud, there was Bill Romanowski punching Marcus Williams, and the THG steroid scandal. How many coaches in that situation would have sailed through the season?
Not very many. Granted, the Raiders would have been hard-pressed to duplicate their success of last season but they are likely a 7-to-9-win ballclub without those aforementioned factors.
Whether the Raiders played hard in Sunday's win over Baltimore "because" or "in spite" of Callahan is open for discussion. The fact that the team played with a sense of purpose should not be forgotten.
If the Raiders can gain a split in their last two games, Callahan may come back next season but on a short leash. In a nutshell, Callahan is not as good as 2002 but not as bad as 2003.
As losses have piled up, some people have suggested that Oakland should "tank" the rest of its games so it can get a higher draft choice.
There are a few reasons why that is a flawed idea:1)
When a team is 4-10, it is 4-10 for a reason. It does not need to "try" to lose games. It has shown it can do that well enough on its own.2)
The Raiders have several holes to fill and one impact player is not going to solve all of their problems.3)
Having the higher draft choice comes with no guarantee. For every Charles Woodson, there's Rickey Dudley. For every Tim Brown, there's John Clay. For every Peyton Manning, there's Ryan Leaf. Anyhow, you get the picture now. It's a hit and miss proposition.4)
Journeyman players such as offensive lineman Brad Badger or tight end O.J. Santiago need to put forth their best efforts to impress a team – whether it's the Raiders or another club. Rookies like, say, wide receiver Doug Gabriel or linebacker Shurron Pierson need to put forth their best efforts to impress the coaches in order to earn more playing time. Is it in any of those players' interest to "mail in the season?" Don't think so.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org