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Super Bowl Pits Young Coach Vs. Former Assistant - 2003-01-25

The Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making final preparations for Sunday's National Football League Championship game Super Bowl XXXVII. The game features a young coach going against his former assistant and friend for the biggest prize in the NFL.

Tampa coach John Gruden first met Oakland's Bill Callahan when Gruden was an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers and Callahan was an assistant at the University of Wisconsin.

When Gruden went to the Philadelphia Eagles, he persuaded Callahan to come to the professional ranks. Callahan was also Gruden's assistant last year at the Oakland Raiders.

But after a heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship game to eventual Super Bowl champion New England, the Raiders and Gruden parted ways. Tampa Bay offered Raiders' owner Al Davis several draft picks and $8 million and offered Gruden a $17 million contract. Both accepted.

Now Gruden will face Callahan on opposite sides of the Super Bowl. The Tampa Bay Coach says he has a lot of respect for Callahan.

"Bill and I have worked together a lot of hours: personal hours, professional hours, and I have learned a great deal from him in terms of technique and fundamentals," Gruden said. " The visions that he has offensively. We have in turn worked together to try to put together the best offenses we could. But this is a great football coach and a great guy."

Callahan says that he has a great deal of respect for Gruden, who has taken Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl ever. The Oakland coach says that Gruden has been his mentor and his friend and now the two men face one another in the biggest game of their lives.

"We were fortunate enough to go in a different direction and learn from some of the things that obviously I wanted to do from a coach's aspect," Callahan said. "But to John's credit he was instrumental in my growth and my development as a coach in this league."

Callahan and his Raiders are favored to win Sunday's game. Many fans are looking forward to the top rated offense in the NFL the Raiders taking on the number one defense in the league Tampa Bay. Oakland has not been to the Super Bowl in 19 years. Tampa Bay has never played in the championship game.