Ousted coach to join Gruden's staff?

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Bill Callahan went from the Super Bowl to
the unemployment line in less than a year.

The Oakland Raiders announced Callahan's firing Wednesday, just
one season after he took the team within a victory of an NFL
championship as a rookie head coach.

The team told Callahan a day earlier. He asked to delay the
announcement because his son Brian's college team, UCLA, played in
a bowl game Tuesday night.

Openly criticized by his players, Callahan went 15-17 overall
and 4-12 this season, the Raiders' worst record since 1997 and the
biggest drop by a Super Bowl team.

"He brought it on himself, that's all," the Raiders' Charles Woodson said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Woodson was among Callahan's harshest critics, saying the coach is stubborn and lost control of the team. Callahan suspended Woodson and Charlie Garner for the season finale for missing curfew.

Callahan was fired shortly after quarterback Rich Gannon criticized
Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman for a bad offensive system.

Owner Al Davis -- his team unable to live up to his motto of
"Just Win, Baby!" -- is not known for patience with coaches.
Callahan, who earned $1 million a season, completed the second year
of a two-year contract, and Davis declined a series of one-year
club options that could have kept Callahan in Oakland through the
2006 season.

Callahan, a seven-year NFL assistant with no previous head
coaching experience, was promoted from offensive coordinator when
Jon Gruden went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season.
Gruden's Bucs beat Callahan's Raiders 48-21 in the 2003 Super Bowl.

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

There was speculation for weeks that Callahan would be
dismissed. Now the Raiders are the seventh NFL team without a head
coach -- nearly a quarter of the league.

"I don't think he was happy there, and I don't think everybody
was happy with him," left guard Frank Middleton said Wednesday.
"I felt like something had to be done, either with the players or
with the coach."

Callahan's agent, Gary O'Hagan, declined comment. Calls to the
coach's office weren't returned and he reportedly packed up days
ago. Callahan is thought to be headed to Tampa Bay to join Gruden's

Some potential replacements are former Vikings and Stanford
coach Dennis Green, former Raiders coach Art Shell, and the other
recently fired NFL coaches. Also mentioned are several top
assistants -- including 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora and
Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who was fired Tuesday.

The Raiders released a statement expressing appreciation for
Callahan, calling the Super Bowl his "shining hour."

Several players earlier said they expected and welcomed a
coaching change. Last month, Callahan called his squad the
"dumbest team in America," and he then suspended Woodson and Garner for the season finale.

Gannon, who met with Davis on Tuesday, believes he -- not the
coaching staff -- unfairly took the blame during the early weeks of
the season before he was injured.

"Here I sit today feeling like in some small way I have to
defend myself and defend my performance over the last five years
here. ... It's a disgrace. It's disrespectful to me," Gannon said.

Callahan faced tough circumstances, with 12 players going on
injured reserve.

"I don't think he should have been fired. He coached through a
lot of injuries this year," Middleton said. "I don't think it was
all his fault."

Still, with so many players back from an AFC championship team,
Callahan acknowledged the Raiders underachieved.

The Raiders made costly mistakes in all phases of the game, and
often beat themselves with penalties. After Oakland's 22-8 loss to
the Denver Broncos on Nov. 30, Callahan was incensed.

"We've got to be the dumbest team in America in terms of
playing the game!" Callahan shouted to reporters. "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."