Callahan's the man for the job

Bill Callahan doesn't plan on making any major changes now that he's been named head coach of trhe Raiders. Callahan, who spent the last four seasons as Oakland's offensive coordinator and Jon Gruden's right-hand man, says he will keep the system pretty much status quo, something that no doubt factored heavily in his getting the job.

''The day-to-day functions of the operation will not change,'' said Callahan, who was introduced Wednesday as the Raiders head coach. ''Structurally in terms of practice formats and scheduling and things of that nature, they will not change. I was very instrumental with Jon in putting those formats together. It's something I believe in whole-heartedly.''

Callahan, 45, became the 13th head coach in franchise history after signing a two-year deal with a two-year option. Callahan will earn $1 million in each of his first two years, then will see his pay escalate to $1.5 million and $2 million in 2005 and 2006 should the Raiders decide to pick up his option. With other incentives, the deal could be worth nearly $7 million in total.

The hiring of Callahan ended nearly four weeks of speculation that had surrounded the Raiders ever since the team traded Gruden to Tampa Bay for four draft picks and $8 million. While it had been widely speculated that Callahan was the front runner for the position, Raiders owner Al Davis took his time in making the decision.

Davis wanted to see how Callahan would operate in a leadership role given more authority. Thus after Gruden was traded to the Bucs, Davis named Callahan 'captain' of the remaining assistant coaches and allowed him to handle more of a lead role in the preparation for NFL Combine.

It was a change of pace of sorts for Callahan, who frequently took a backseat to Gruden despite being equally involved in the game-planning and play-calling.

''While he hasn't been out front, as one player said he's been a great part of the motor that drives the organization on the football field,'' said Davis, who nevertheless figures to have a more on-hands approach with Callahan than he did with the fiery Gruden. ''Anyone in an important position such as this has to have a committment to excellence and Bill Callahan certainly has that committment. He demands respect, and most important of all he commands respect from the players, the men who have to do the job every Sunday.

''He knows what this job entails. He knows the pressure that this job entails. He was there in New England when the euphoria on the sideline of what we thought was a fumble turned into something that went against us. He knows that it isn't easy when you have to coach the Raiders.''

Indeed, Callahan has his hands full in his first NFL head coaching job. Not only is he replacing the widely popular Gruden but he also is assuming control of a team many feel has one, perhaps two years left to make a solid run at the Super Bowl. He'll also have to do it with the ever-present Davis looming over his shoulder.

On the upside is that Callahan was the popular choice inside the Raiders locker room, particularly among the offensive linemen. Lincoln Kennedy, Barry Sims and Adam Treu all publicly voiced their support for him in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's announcement.

''I am going to love it. I am going to really love it,'' said Callahan. ''This is a day I've looked forward to my whole life. I am going to love this. I really enjoy what we have going here in our program with our players (and) the culture, the environment that we've established here. I'm really excited about the possibilities of what we can do here.''

Replacing Gruden, who was named to People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list, won't be as difficult as some believe, Callahan said.

''I'm not concerned about the effect of charisma or what people think about that,'' Callahan said. ''I'm more concerned about our team being charismatic on the field. I'm more concerned with the product on the field is an exciting product and one that the fans can embrace and that they can latch on to."


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