Buccaneers fire head coach Raheem Morris
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dumping coach Raheem Morris,
although not necessarily their determination to win with one of the
NFL’s youngest teams.
Morris was fired Monday after three seasons that raised
questions about ownership’s commitment to winning because the club
has resisted spending large amounts of money in free agency.
A 45-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s season finale
was the 10th straight following a 4-2 start. The skid was the
franchise’s longest within one season since 1977, when the Bucs
lost 12 in a row to extend the longest losing streak in league
history to 26 consecutive games over two years.
Morris went 17-31, including a 10-6 mark in 2010, when the Bucs
narrowly missed the playoffs. His entire staff of assistants was
”In these things it is not just one thing, but I will point to
just the progress of the team and where we’re at,” Bucs
co-chairman Joel Glazer said at a news conference. ”Again, you
can’t point to one thing or another. You look at totality of the
situation when making your decision.”
The 35-year-old Morris was hired in January 2009, replacing Jon
Gruden after Tampa Bay lost the final four games of 2008 to miss
the playoffs following a 9-3 start.
This year’s collapse followed a promising start that included
wins over NFC South rivals New Orleans and Atlanta, which are both
headed to the playoffs.
Morris was hired at the same time that the Glazer family, which
owns the team, promoted Mark Dominik to general manager. The GM’s
job appears to be safe, although questions persist about whether he
provided the type of talent necessary to be successful.
”I think that’s a fair question, and I do take responsibility
for what happened on this football team as well. Obviously as a
general manager, my job is to help acquire talent, provide talent,
draft players and get us to a competitive level,” Dominik
Morris began his stint as the league’s youngest coach with a
seven-game losing streak. It ended with a skid that rivaled some of
the worst stretches in franchise history, in part because it came
only a year after it looked as though the plan to build with young
players was on track.
”Obviously we all felt like at 10-6 … the team was going in
the right direction,” Dominik said. ”Certainly during the season,
it’s difficult to acquire talent when you have injuries. A coach is
never supposed to stand up here and talk about the injuries he has
or else he looks soft and weak and he can’t handle it. We did have
some injuries this year. It was difficult. But at the same point, I
thought we had some good players here that are still developing. I
still feel like we have some players that will continue to
With young quarterback Josh Freeman showing great promise in his
first full season as a starter, Tampa Bay won 10 games in 2010 and
barely missed the playoffs. Morris entered training camp following
the NFL lockout declaring he had a ”youngry” team that was
confident and talented enough to compete with the more experienced
Saints and Falcons for a division title.
The team’s strong start included wins at home over Atlanta and
New Orleans that lent credence to the coach’s assertion that a 48-3
road loss to San Francisco was simply a bad day at the office, not
a sign that the Bucs were not nearly as good as their record
While injuries did contribute to the season-ending slide, so did
inconsistent play – starting with Freeman. He threw for 16
touchdowns vs. 22 interceptions after tossing 25 TD passes and
being intercepted just six times in 2010. The Bucs turned the ball
over a league-leading 40 times compared to 19 last season.
The defense, which has a proud tradition, sank to unheard of
lows in Tampa Bay. In addition to surrendering a franchise-record
and league-high 494 points, the Bucs lost eight games by
double-digit margins and allowed 31 points or more seven times
during the season-ending skid.
With Morris serving as his own defensive coordinator, he
shouldered much of the blame for the steady decline.
Still, last week the coach laid out his argument for keeping the
The Bucs had the youngest team in the NFL this season, with 30
players on the 53-man roster in their first, second or third years
in the league.
In addition, there are 21 players on the roster, including
leading rusher LeGarrette Blount and third-leading receiver Preston
Parker, who entered the NFL as undrafted free agents.
Among the veterans who didn’t return in 2011 were middle
linebacker Barrett Ruud and running back Cadillac Williams, who
left via free agency. Rookie Mason Foster stepped into Ruud’s spot
and took on play-calling responsibilities, and the loss of Williams
left Freeman without a proven third-down back once veteran Earnest
Graham was lost for the season to injury.
”We made a collective agreement to go young when we took over
this program. That’s something we wanted to do,” Morris said at
the time. ”I believe in my guys. I believe in the system. I
believe in the program. I believe in what we do. We want to build
this thing young, and want to develop a team that goes out and
wins, and wins consistently.”
Glazer said there’s no timetable for naming a successor.
”We just want to find the right person,” he said, adding that
his family also remains committed to building a roster primarily
through the draft.
”We will be happy to spend in free agency, but we have got to
build a team,” Glazer said. ”We have to draft well and build a
foundation for this team. But we’re open-minded; whatever we have
to do to win.”