|Tuesday, March 12
Updated: March 13, 3:34 AM ET
Raiders promote Callahan to head coach
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders promoted offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to head coach Tuesday night, three weeks after Jon Gruden left to coach Tampa Bay.
There was little suspense in the Raiders' decision. Though the team said it conducted an extensive search for its new coach, apparently considering former Minnesota coach Dennis Green and Kansas City offensive coordinator Al Saunders, Callahan was the clear favorite to continue Gruden's successful tenure -- simply because he never left the building.
Callahan, who's popular with the Raiders' veteran roster of offensive players, remained under contract to Oakland when Gruden left for Tampa Bay. In fact, Gruden's entire staff has remained at work full time in Alameda since the popular young coach's departure.
Callahan, a Chicago native and a former NAIA quarterback at Illinois Benedictine, is the latest in the long line of offensive-minded head coaches favored by Raiders owner Al Davis.
Callahan spent four seasons as Gruden's offensive coordinator in Oakland -- also coaching the offensive line and tight ends at different points -- after working with Gruden as the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line coach from 1995-97.
Last weekend, the Raiders hired Jay Norvell, a longtime friend of Callahan, to be their tight ends coach even though Norvell had accepted a job at Oklahoma one month earlier -- further evidence that there was a clear front-runner in the Raiders' search.
Callahan, who was an assistant coach at Illinois and Wisconsin earlier in his career, now must tackle the difficult job of following in the footsteps of Gruden, the baby-faced coach who became the Raider Nation's hero during the team's return to power culminating in AFC West championships the past two seasons.
Gruden was 40-28 in four seasons with the Raiders, including two division titles and a 2-2 mark in the playoffs. He led Oakland to the AFC championship game in January 2001.
The Raiders went 10-6 last season despite a prolonged skid in the season's final two months. They beat the New York Jets in the wild-card round of the playoffs before a controversial loss to eventual Super Bowl champion New England in overtime in the divisional playoffs.
After the season, the Buccaneers made a strong pitch for Gruden after firing Tony Dungy. Though Gruden professed to be happy in Oakland, many thought Gruden chafed under the strict control exercised by Davis -- and the sentiment proved accurate when Gruden showed interest in Tampa Bay.
Davis rejected the Buccaneers' first advances to Gruden, but accepted their compensation package days later.
Gruden, who left with a year remaining on his contract with the Raiders, received a five-year deal worth about $17.5 million from Tampa Bay. As compensation, the Raiders received two first-round draft picks, a pair of second-rounders and $8 million.