If Raheem Morris gets the sense he could be forced to walk the plank after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers close out their season on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, he’s certainly not letting on to it.
The Bucs are mired in a nine-game losing streak and seemingly nothing has gone right for them, especially during the second half of the season. It’s quite a fallout from last season when the young team finished 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs. Some warned the Bucs were doing it with mirrors last season and were not as good as their record indicated, but few would have predicted this kind of dramatic drop-off.
Morris said Monday he doesn’t believe he should be fired, something that has become a hot-button topic in Tampa.
“I think I answered this question a couple weeks ago, I will never fire myself,'' Morris said, according to Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times. “You don’t go from being a Coach of the Year candidate to being the worst coach in the league to get fired within a year. It’s about us. It’s a little bit of everything.
“I believe in my guys. I believe in the system. I believe in the program. I believe in what we do and everybody in this building. It’s a buying-in factor. Either you buy in or you don’t and we want to build this thing young and we want to develop a team that goes out and wins and wins consistently.''
Morris pointed to a plan to rebuild with youth, one that general manager Mark Domink and the Glazer family signed off on. When you’re going with youth, there can be bumps in the road. But no one expected such a rough ride, especially after so many young players performed so well last season when the Bucs were one of the surprise teams of the league.
“We made a collective agreement to go young when we took over this program,'' Morris said. “That's something we wanted to do. In order to upgrade in certain positions, sometimes you got to get worse before you get better. Going out and getting a young middle linebacker was something we decided to do and we did it. Whether or not at the beginning we both were on the same page or all four of us were on the same page, including the Glazers, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, we decided to do it and we went out and did it.''
Quarterback Josh Freeman has regressed this season and that will be an offseason focus for the Bucs, who are frequently referenced as an undisciplined group. Some wonder if Morris has lost the locker room, something he’s heard.
“I know, “Have you lost them?' All that garbage talk,” Morris said. “There's no doubt in my mind none of that stuff is even close because of the 61 men in that room during our team meeting when I actually can call guys out and tell them what to do and what not to do.”
We’ll find out more about Morris and his fate in about a week.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune