When the Buccaneers upset the Eagles in last Sunday’s early game, you had a feeling that it was destined for the Raiders to meet them in the Super Bowl. Rather than having to desperately make up some history to hype up a Bucs-Titans matchup, sports journalists all over America breathed a sigh of relief when the Raiders pulled away from upstart Tennessee on Sunday. What better genuine storyline would there be than Jon Gruden, current Tampa head coach, facing off against his old team, the Rrrrraiders?

Already, this Super Bowl is being called the Gruden Bowl because of the personality that is Jon Gruden. Gruden, who is known for his scowls, his resemblance to horror film character Chucky and his place on People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, has become a media favorite. What makes Gruden shine so much, though, is that he’s taken control over a team that is full of its own personality and drama. Tampa Bay boasts two of the biggest mouths in football – Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson – but Gruden has managed to transcend even those two. Sapp and Keyshawn might think they’re good but Gruden literally knows how much he is worth: two first round draft picks, two second round picks and eight million dollars.

Oprah might have a multi-million dollar entertainment enterprise and Bill Gates may have Microsoft, but are they worth four talented football players? No, only Jon Gruden is. Therefore, it’s excusable that Gruden has a little strut in his walk and that he gained some weight in Tampa. The ego can grow now that he’s taken a team to the Super Bowl.

Yet, despite all the contributions and bravado that Gruden has brought to Tampa, you can argue that he has had the easier job of the two Super Bowl coaches. Gruden replaced Tony Dungy, a respected mind who had worn out his welcome. Playoff failure after playoff failure, the Buccaneers stumbled along the edge of mediocrity and any new face would’ve inevitably helped them out.

On the other hand, Gruden’s former offensive coordinator, Bill Callahan, inherited a team that some argued wouldn’t last the entire season. The snowjob in New England last year and the loss of Gruden were heartbreaking enough to make the greatest of wide receivers, Jerry Rice, threaten retirement. When Al Davis decided to go with a virtual nobody instead of a Parcells or a Dungy or some high-profile college coach, many football fans including myself questioned the move.

Instead Raiders management pulled off perhaps the smartest move this season by sticking with a guy who knew the incumbent system and already had a rapport with the graybeards on offense. Unlike Gruden and his engulfing coaching presence, Callahan has not tried to become a tyrant or another big head in Oakland. With the amount of talented stars on the roster, Callahan would be playing with fire if he tried to become another personality.

Callahan has chosen to remain anonymous on the sidelines, trusting in and respecting his veterans, while spurring the offense into a juggernaut resembling the St. Louis Rams of a couple years ago. Even when the Raiders went into a little bit of a slump this midseason and people began questioning the longevity and energy of the old players, Callahan managed to break out of the toughest division in football, the AFC West, and earn the number one seed.

The Raiders have looked even better in the playoffs than the regular season. In their victories over the Jets and the Titans, the Raiders froze Chad Pennington’s hot streak and forced players other than Steve McNair to make mistakes. And there seems to be no slowing down of the supposedly aged Oakland players. Every receiver from Jerry Rice to Jerry Porter to well-rounded back Charlie Garner is a threat, and that’s without mentioning the passing skill and accuracy of the NFL’s reigning MVP quarterback Rich Gannon. These are the same Raiders of the last couple years. Bill Callahan’s presence is the only big change this season.

For the ever-present Bucs fans at Rhino’s and the Korean guy with the Charles Woodson jersey (yes, the guy with the big hair), Sunday’s game means a lot more than million-dollar commercials and drink specials. This year’s Super Bowl will be one of the most intriguing matchups ever. It will be a face-off of old friends, big mouths and coaches with contrasting styles.

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