The Washington Redskins recently named Bill Callahan their interim head coach, replacing Jay Gruden. Callahan entered his fifth season with the Redskins in 2019 as the offensive line coach, but likely wasn’t expecting a head coaching offer. He’s now the seventh head coach under Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder and the fourth in the last 11 seasons.
A True Iron Heart of the Game
Born in Chicago, Bill Callahan grew up playing football. At just 5-foot-9 he’s rather small, but he played quarterback: one of the toughest positions in all of sports. He graduated from Mendel Catholic HS in 1975 and pursued collegiate football at Illinois Benedictine College — now called Benedictine University. In 1976 and 1977, Callahan earned All-American honors for his play.
After graduating from college, Callahan spent the next 15 or so years as an assistant coach at four different universities, including the University of Wisconsin. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Illinois and eventually worked his way to the NFL in 1995.
Callahan Breaks Ground in the NFL
The Philadelphia Eagles offered Callahan the offensive-line coaching job in ’95, where he would stay for another two seasons. His short tenure in Philly earned credibility around the league, and eventually, the Oakland Raiders asked him to be their offensive coordinator in 1998. Callahan spent four seasons under head coach Jon Gruden, but the two would later butt heads. After Gruden left the Raiders for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001, Oakland promoted Callahan to head coach.
The 2001-2002 season proved to be an important one for Bill Callahan, as his Oakland Raiders faced off against Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. Led by QB Rich Gannon and Gruden’s old offense, Callahan and the Raiders fell to the Bucs 48-21 — the seventh largest Super Bowl margin of victory. Callahan was just the fourth rookie head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance.
Instead of signing an extension with the Raiders after the 2003 season, Callahan took his coaching talents to the University of Nebraska. His four seasons as their head coach earned two bowl invitations, but his lack of success made it difficult to find another head coaching job afterward.
New Values and New Life
Many who know Bill Callahan and his coaching style know that his offenses are run-oriented with a strong offensive line. These values originated from his tenure with the New York Jets as an assistant head coach from 2008-20011. In those four years, the Jets ranked second in the league in rushing yards per game, helping them reach back to back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010.
Callahan’s next stop in his career was with the Dallas Cowboys as an offensive coordinator. From 2012-2014, RB DeMarco Murray led the Cowboys’ rushing offense with a star-studded cast of offensive linemen. Murray broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a season in 2014 with 1,845 yards, which is likely one of Callahan’s greatest accomplishments. However, his reign was rather short.
In 2015, Callahan took over as Washington’s offensive-line coach. His run-heavy values resonated well with the Redskins, as they already had centerpiece players like OT Trent Williams. He’s since taken over the role of head coach after Washington fired Jay Gruden in Week 6 of 2019.
Featured Image Courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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