New-age Bucs facing former coach

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
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It’s a meaningless final preseason game, but Wednesday night’s exhibition between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins at least has one good storyline.

The Bucs (or at least what’s left of last year’s team) will face their former head coach, Raheem Morris, who now is the defensive backs coach for the Redskins.

[+] EnlargeRaheem Morris
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergRaheem Morris will coach against his former team Wednesday night.
A lot of things have changed since the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season and hired Greg Schiano, but it doesn’t sound like Morris has changed all that much. Check out Rick Stroud’s story in which Morris does what he does best ... and worst. He talks a lot, perhaps way too much.

“We were getting fitted for coach of the year rings [in 2010],’’ Morris said. “A year later, we weren’t disciplined enough.’’

That’s vintage Morris. I don’t know too many other head coaches that would be bragging about finishing second in the voting for coach of the year after a 2010 season in which a young team obviously caught some lucky breaks and went 10-6, but didn’t make the playoffs. Morris mentioned the runner-up finish in that meaningless election several times while he still was in Tampa Bay and, even then, it was obvious that he was trying to make it sound like he had arrived before he truly had.

Back in his Tampa Bay days, Morris liked to talk about how much he liked his youthful team and its desire, coining the word “Youngry." Now, he’s coming across differently, admitting that he called Mark Dominik after the Bucs went on a spending spree in free agency in March.

“I gave him some nice choice words,’’ Morris said, adding that Dominik treated the call as playful banter.

That’s nice, but Morris is at least giving the impression that he’s a little bitter the Bucs didn’t spend big money on free agents while he was there, even though he frequently talked about the importance of building through the draft. The part about not signing free agents was true in his final year, but not the entire time. The Bucs did sign some free agents earlier in his tenure and they didn’t work out (see Derrick Ward). Maybe the fact guys like Ward didn’t work out was Morris’ fault, maybe it was Dominik’s fault or maybe it was a combination of the two. But there was plenty of evidence Morris didn’t always do his homework. Just think back to the fact that original offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski didn’t make it through his first training camp and initial defensive coordinator Jim Bates didn’t make it through the first season.

Look, I like Morris. He’s a genuinely nice guy and I think he will be a good head coach someday. He has plenty of positive qualities. But he needs to be a little more introspective on his time in Tampa Bay and realize some of the mistakes he made.

The fact is, the Bucs made Morris a head coach long before he was ready. He’s 36 now and he’s in a spot where he can do what he does best -- coach defensive backs.

In the process, maybe Morris can also grow by looking back and making some small changes, like focusing more on details and learning to tone down the bravado.

If he does that, Morris can then take the next logical step and become a defensive coordinator somewhere. Do that for a few years, have some success, stay humble about that success and he might get another chance as a head coach.

Mature a little in the process and he might be ready for success the second time around.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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