|Monday, February 18
Updated: February 21, 8:02 PM ET
Players campaign for Callahan's promotion
By Len Pasquarelli
Despite the stunning departure of Jon Gruden on Monday afternoon, there will be continuity in the Oakland Raiders staff, because Al Davis permitted his reluctant head coach to exit only after he elicited a stipulation that none of the team's assistants will follow him to Tampa Bay.
The continuity could be extended even beyond that, though, because the early favorite to succeed Gruden is already on the Oakland payroll.
While the bigger names of Davis favorites like Dennis Green and Art Shell already have surfaced, it is current Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Callahan who is most likely to get the job. And if you are unfamiliar with Callahan, it doesn't matter, because the Raiders players know him well and are already campaigning for him to be promoted into Gruden's spot.
"On one hand, you could make the point that we're a veteran team with one last chance to win it all, so why gamble that shot on a guy who has never been a head coach?" said one Raiders star offensive player on Monday night. "But let me turn the argument on you: If the window is open just a crack for us, and (the 2002) season is probably our final shot with this roster, then why not take that shot with a coach we all know and respect and who will maintain this the way they are?"
Good point and one Davis, who typically respects the counsel of his veteran players, might well heed as he ponders his options over the next few days.
Callahan, 45, is a seven-year NFL veteran whose primary area of expertise is the offensive line. But he has worked with Gruden since the two were Philadelphia Eagles assistants together. And he knows and understands the Gruden style of the West Coast offense better than anyone else available.
The popular Callahan moved with Gruden to the Raiders in 1998, and has quickly earned the respect of the players and, more important, of Davis.
The 2002 season could be the last together for some of the team's high-profile players -- notably quarterback Rich Gannon and wide receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice -- and the players now are theorizing the campaign could be wasted if a new coach comes in with a new system. Or if a new coach arrives and takes a full year to learn Gruden's offensive design.
As of Monday night, neither Shell nor Green had been contacted by Oakland officials. Nor had any of the other usual suspects whose names have been attached in recent months to any of the NFL head coach openings.
To get in touch with Callahan about an interview, all Davis need do is stroll down the hall, and the smart money says that he'll make that walk sometime soon.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.