Eleven months after coaching the Raiders in the Super Bowl, Bill Callahan is unemployed.
Callahan, 47, reportedly was informed of his dismissal as Raiders head coach in a meeting with club managing general partner Al Davis and senior assistant Bruce Allen on Dec. 30, 2003. The team declined to pick up the first of two option years on his contract.
Callahan was fired after the Raiders concluded their worst season since 1997 with a 21-14 loss at San Diego on Dec. 28. They finished 4-12, equaling the franchise's worst record since 1-13 in 1962. The Raiders tied for the worst record in the NFL this season with the Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants.
What a difference a year makes.
Callahan (right) led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl in 19 years as a rookie head coach in 2002. They won their third straight AFC West title with an 11-5 record before beating the New York Jets 30-10 and Tennessee Titans 41-24 in the AFC playoffs.
Their 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII began a stunning crash-and-burn meltdown for the Raiders, who have gone through five head coaches (Art Shell, Mike White, Joe Bugel, Jon Gruden and Callahan) since 1994.
In Callahan's final 17 games as their coach, the Raiders were an abysmal 4-13.
Callahan's departure seemed inevitable one day after the Raiders' 2003 season ended. Before Callahan held a three-minute news conference at the team's Alameda, Calif. headquarters, cornerback Charles Woodson told reporters:
"This is where I plan on being. I don't plan on Callahan being here. I won't play for him. However you want to print that, however that sounds for anybody, I won't play for him."
Hours later, wide receiver Tim Brown expressed similar scorn for Callahan. Brown, speaking on his KNBR-680 radio program, said: "I don't think he should be the Raiders coach next year. He coached to get fired in my opinion, and that's what I think should happen. If he doesn't want to be here, he doesn't need to be here. At this point, I know I couldn't play for him (in 2004)."
After the Raiders announced Dec. 31 that Callahan's contract wouldn't be extended, guard Frank Middleton told The Associated Press: "I don't think he was happy there, and I don't think everybody was happy with him. I felt like something had to be done, either with the players or with the coach."
Callahan's players were on the verge of mutiny after he deactivated Woodson and running back Charlie Garner hours before Oakland's season-ending loss to San Diego. Woodson and Garner reportedly missed a mandatory team function and two bed checks the night before the game.
One day after the Raiders lost to the Chargers, Woodson told Bay Area media: "We were wrong for that (missing curfew). Definitely wrong."
In what would be his final news conference as Raiders coach, Callahan read a prepared statement and declined to answer questions. He read, in part: "I accept full and complete responsibility for the lack of success we've had this year. I'm really disappointed in our season, and I look to the future with great promise for all of our players and for all of our coaches."
Callahan had a a 15-17 regular-season record in two seasons with the Raiders. Callahan, a seven-year NFL assistant, had no previous head coaching experience when he was promoted from offensive coordinator after Jon Gruden went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.