The Houston game began the application of heat; up until that point the Bucs 3 out of 4 game losing streak was irritating, nauseating, but ultimately the games were close in the end, and you could point to a play here, a play there, and maybe you win. Then Houston Happened, and it was a page right out of Sam Wyche’s 1994. The players quit, they loafed, they were unaccountable, and all of that falls to coaching.
Raheem Morris deserves credit for taking the blame, because it was his. This was proven the next week when the Bucs went out and played lights out against Green Bay. But coaching issues continue to cause problems with these Bucs, and Raheem Morris may end up paying for them with his job if the Bucs players don’t shape up in time.
Coaching decisions are Morris’ right to make, if he wants to be aggressive and call two onside kicks in the game, that’s a judgment call and another case where the result shouldn’t be the grade for the call. The offseason lockout has had an effect on this team, and it’s effects should be removed from any discussion of the Coach’s performance in 2012. Josh Freeman is clearly not the same QB he was last year, although not all is fault of #5; his defense gives up 400 yards a game, has already given up more 4th quarter points in 11 games than all of last year, and the offensive weapons he has continues to drop balls, commit costly penalties, and that, is what Raheem Morris is going to be judged on when the season comes to an end.
Coaches coach, and players play, but there is a reason the WORLDS best football players still require someone to lead them. The season is almost ¾ complete, and the head football coach does not seem to have a way to teach his football team how to stop holding, or approaching offsides, or committing illegal procedures.
If the Glazers do choose to pull the plug on Raheem Morris after 3 seasons, it will not be fair to the young coach who was never given the firepower he needed to win with. The ownership wanted to go with a completely young rebuilding process that stocked the team with draft picks only, and completely ignored major Free Agency options the last two years except one: Kicker Michael Koenen. If speculation by Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds is correct, the front office has said it plans to address Free Agency next year finally, after three full draft classes have stocked the rosters at One Bucs Place with raw young talent.
Yet didn’t the Bucs ownership provide Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik with a free agency class at the start of 2009 which included the best Tight End (Kellen Winslow Jr), best running back (Derrick Ward), placekicker (Mike Nugget) and re-signed it’s own free agents (Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton) only to find failure in all but Winslow? Whose fault is it that all of those players failed to produce? Isn’t some of that on the shoulders of coaching?
Then we’re forced to revisit the coordinator errors this team created, and the decisions that were made to correct them. If Jeff Jagodzinski was interviewed and brought in as an offensive coordinator, and failed to impress the head coach, was it wise to stick with the interim OC that you did not even want to interview for the job in the first place? These are things that are now forced to come to the front when discussing the job performance of Raheem Morris. When the Bucs were winning, these things disappear into the background, but now that they are losing, they have to be re-evaluated.
Then there is the defensive coordinator too. Jim Bates was brought in for Morris to create a hybrid defensive system, players were told to gain weight, change the manner to which they were brought in to play, and then after 10 games that system was scrapped because it became obvious that it was going to work. Raheem Morris took over the Defensive Coordinator duties, and the team responded with inspired defensive play in 2009. 2010 saw a lot of that continue as well, but here we are in 2011, and the defense has slipped back into Jim Bates level of embarrassment. The run defense is virtually last, the pass defense is too, and the scoring defense as well. Not only that, but there is no hope on the horizon for a change, because these are the players that were drafted for these jobs.
Tony Dungy was hired as Head Coach in 1996, and he too immediately went out and found a defensive coordinator. Dungy was far more qualified than Morris to be the DC, but he did not succumb to the temptation to do it himself. Again, when you win, you clean all the dirt off of any decision right or wrong. But the Bucs are not winning under Raheem Morris right now.
I do not believe the Glazers will pull the plug on the Raheem Morris era as long as the Bucs win some of the games they should and play respectable, close football. There is no number of wins in my opinion, although I’m not so sure I would feel safe if I finished 5-11 or worse, after going 4-2. They fired Tony Dungy after three straight playoff seasons. They renewed Jon Gruden’s contract after a 9-7 playoff season saying they felt the team was headed in the right direction, but then in 2008 when it was clear the team no longer was, the Glazers changed directions themselves. Morris has one more year left on his contract, and while its unusual for Head Coaches to work their “Lame Duck” seasons, it’s not unthinkable.
First and foremost, this is a business, and one that is not doing that well. There is a remarkable ‘hush’ regarding Bucs football these days. The Tampa Bay Rays and Lightning are vying for their share of the markets stretched entertainment dollar. Fans are plain apathetic over the Bucs for the last couple of years. Its clear by looking at Stubhub.com which people are not going to the games: thousands of premium seats are available, these fans are the season ticker holders for years, and they are just not interested in going any more. Radio call in shows that used to light up the boards, now rely on their hosts to excite the airwaves. The more you look at the picture, the more outcomes you see ahead. Raheem Morris is a stand up guy, a real leader.
I have no doubt he WILL be an excellent head coach. The how, what, why, when and where, will be up to the Glazers in January and beyond.