One day Raheem Morris will look back at his first head coaching job in Tampa and remember what went right and more importantly what went wrong.
A year after being considered for coach of the year, Raheem Morris’ mistakes were on full display as his once promising football team slipped from the precipice of the NFL post-season to a disappointing, disheveled 4-12.
There were a number of factors that ultimately contributed to the Bucs decline, many of them were far beyond Morris’ control, but as the season wore on and the losing streak continued to grow, the writing was on the wall: this Buccaneers team has quit on their coach.
That’s a sad statement because Morris is a likable man, nobody was rooting for him to fail. But in the NFL you cannot ignore when a team has tuned a coach out and it’s pretty clear that’s gone on in Tampa. Losing is one thing, a team getting consistently embarrassed is another. Let’s not forget that this Buccaneers team scored two impressive early season wins over playoff teams, beating both the Saints and Falcons in a legitimate sense. They didn’t fluke to wins in those contests, through the first six weeks this Buccaneers team had that level of potential.
Then things collapsed.
The Bucs proceeded to lose ten straight, including a string of embarrassing blowouts that culminated against Atlanta in week 17 with the Bucs going down 35-0 in the second quarter.
Like I said, this isn’t all on Morris, the Buccaneers are a team full of quitters. You could see hints of it last year in blowout losses to the Saints and Steelers at Raymond James. You could see it early this season when the Bucs quit in the middle of the 49ers game. That’s not a nice thing to say about a team but it’s absolutely true in this case. In 2011, the Bucs were the biggest group of quitters in the NFL. Bar none.
It may not be all Morris’ fault, it’s pretty obvious leadership is not at a premium amongst the Buccaneers players, but he does deserve a good share of the blame. It’s Morris’ job to motivate this team and keep them focused. He really didn’t accomplish that this year.
Look at the Miami Dolphins’ season. They started 0-7 and were dead in the water by week five, yet they finished 6-10 including going 6-3 over their final nine games. The Dolphins knew their coach was doomed, probably before the season began (after all their owner tried unsuccessfully to replace their head coach with Jim Harbaugh the off-season before), but they didn’t quit. Even at 0-7 in the midst of the “suck for Luck” craze they never quit. The Bucs did. And it really didn’t take much.
Now, it’s time for heads to roll and unfortunately first on the chopping block will like be the young head coach, Raheem Morris.
But as much as Morris has failed this bunch, they have also failed him. There are no leaders in the locker room asking players to hold themselves accountable, a coach has to motivate but on some levels the competitive fire needs to be innate in players. There are guys on the Bucs who I wonder about in regard to that competitive edge.
When the next coach comes in and the effort and intensity don’t pick up, it may be obvious that the problem the Bucs have wasn’t their coaching, it was the motivations of the players on their team. That’s the scariest part of this whole season. We hope it was the coach, it’s pretty likely it’s the players.