Jay Norvell vigorously denies recent allegations that the Oakland Raiders’ coaching staff made last-minute changes to their Super Bowl game plan, resulting in what former receiver Tim Brown suggested could’ve been “sabotage” nearly 10 years ago.
Brown’s shocking comments — and Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice’s support of them — somewhat soured an otherwise exciting month for the 2002-03 Raiders’ staff.
Some of its members reunited for a new challenge in a different city; the Dallas Cowboys appear primed to give play-calling duties to former Oakland head coach Bill Callahan; and one low-level Raiders assistant from that staff reached his first Super Bowl as a head coach.
“It’s a really good group of coaches,” Norvell said. “It’s an interesting year. There’s a lot of guys that I coached with that are getting opportunities.
“They’re kinda putting that band back together in Chicago.”
The Chicago Bears hired Marc Trestman, Oakland’s offensive coordinator from 2002-03, as their new head coach. Trestman lured two assistants from that Raiders’ staff to Chicago — Adam Kromer, the Bears’ new offensive coordinator, coached the Oakland offensive line under Trestman, and then-Raiders running backs coach Skip Peete accepted the same position in Chicago.
A source told The Oklahoman Thursday that Norvell, too, interviewed for and was offered a job on Trestman’s Chicago staff, but ultimately chose to stay at Oklahoma.
Norvell declined to comment on any potential jobs he may have interviewed for, saying only that he and his family are very happy in Norman.
“Marc’s a great, great coach and a great mind,” Norvell said. “I’m happy for him and his success.”
His old boss, meanwhile, appears likely to assume the Dallas Cowboys’ play-calling duties.
Callahan just completed his first season as the Cowboys’ offensive line coach.
In addition to coaching on Callahan’s Raiders’ staff, Norvell was his offensive coordinator at Nebraska from 2004-06.
Then there’s Jim Harbaugh, who once toiled through sleepless night after sleepless night as the Raiders’ quality control coach, and 10 years later prepares to lead the San Francisco 49ers into XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens, coached by his brother John.
Jim Harbaugh’s wide receivers’ coach in San Francisco is John Morton, yet another 2002 Oakland assistant.
“Jimmy was just starting out,” Norvell remembered. “He was our quality control coach, which basically meant we chained him to his computer and he could never go home.
“He would literally work all night long every Tuesday night to get it ready for the 9 a.m. offensive meeting. A lot of times he wouldn’t go home. He never complained. Just a really unique guy.”
A couple respected former Raiders, though, said this week that Callahan and his staff changed the team’s offensive game plan just days before the 2003 Super Bowl, which Tampa Bay won in a 48-20 rout.
Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who played all but one season of his career in Oakland, said Monday on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Callahan “hated the Raiders” and might’ve been willing to “sabotage” the Super Bowl because of his friendship with then-Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden.
One day after Brown’s accusation, Rice went on ESPN and corroborated it.
“For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me,” Rice told ESPN. “In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders, he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”
Callahan released a statement condemning the suggestions, and some former Raiders players, including quarterback Rich Gannon, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player that season, offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy and linebacker Bill Romanowski all disputed Brown’s claims.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” Romanowski said on a Philadelphia radio station last week. “Is he trying to be relevant for the Super Bowl?
“So you’re saying that a man has a chance to cement himself in history with winning a Super Bowl and he wants to hand it over to his buddy? Give me a break ... He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Norvell declined to speak much on the controversy, other than to strongly deny a last-minute game plan change or any Super Bowl sabotage.
“It was a good year,” Norvell said.