It may be giving Raheem Morris too much credit to say that he knew exactly what he was doing when he declared, very publicly, that the Buccaneers were the best team in the NFC after a week seven win over the St. Louis Rams that brought the Bucs to 4-2 on the young season. But then again, Morris is a pretty bright guy, it may not be.
Regardless of whether he intended it to, Morris’ declaration that the 4-2 Bucs were the conference’s best team put the 2010 Buccaneers on point. There was no more hiding behind excuses about youth or inexperience, no that point was long past. That all went out the window as soon as the team’s brash young coach forcibly inserted them into the NFC conversation with his post-game comments.
“I like where we are,” Morris said. “We’re 4-2. We’re the best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it. We’re excited.”
“I told you we’re going to be young and exciting,” Morris said. “That’s what we got today. We got two teams on the rise. We easily went out there and put together one of the worst first halves of my tenure. If you want to add the Saints game, you could say six quarters. But this team plays 60 minutes. There’s no doubt about that. They have no give-up in them. They have nothing but fight.”
That’s kind of a crazy statement to make after the team you’re coaching ekes out a win against the Rams and is one week removed from a shellacking at the hands of the rival Saints, but Morris made it.
And at first the comment was met with derision and mockery. The entire NFL seemed to collectively take notice and then laugh at the Bucs for their perceived hubris. Nobody took Morris seriously, even with the Bucs tied for the best record in the NFC at 4-2 at that time, nobody took the Bucs seriously.
But that may have been the beauty of the brash comments Morris made. Everyone in that locker-room had to look at the league’s reaction and all the mockery and realize that nobody in the NFL respected them. All season Morris had preached that it was ‘us against the world.’ He had supported his young team and expressed confidence in them to a near point of absurdity.
And here was a moment when Morris could tangibly show the Bucs that despite the complete lack of respect the rest of the league had for them, despite how underestimated they had been, none of it mattered. They were 4-2 and what mattered was that they believed in what they were doing inside that locker-room and let everything outside of it fall in to place.
The Bucs had just had a terrible game against the Saints, they had to pull out a last minute win at home against the Rams, but they were 4-2 and if they believed they were the best team in the NFC, they could play like it and accomplish there goals. And they did.
It also didn’t hurt that by making such a strong statement Morris was putting his team’s backs up to that proverbial wall. The Bucs could either stand up on their own and prove their coach right or be ridiculed as frauds and laughed at by the rest of the league.
Either way, the Bucs fought back the rest of the season and finished strong, reeling off ten wins and playing like a team that did believe it was the best in the NFC for the rest of the season. And in the end Morris’ lesson was a good one. Nothing external mattered, it didn’t matter if not a soul in the world believed the Bucs were the best in the NFC, it only mattered that the Bucs did.