Morris, Dominik will at least bring a plan to Bucs

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
11:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  The Glazers, known for pursuing big names, opted for a relative unknown in Raheem Morris.

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the past, they've flirted with the likes of Bill Parcells and Steve Spurrier (back when he was a big name) and sold their souls (and two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million in cash) to get Jon Gruden.

They even went out and bought the fabled Manchester United soccer team.

In short, the Glazer family -- Malcolm and sons Joel, Bryan and Ed -- like big names. So, how in the heck are the Glazers hiring Raheem Morris as the head coach of the Buccaneers?

Well, to make a long story short, he's Tony Dungy. Or Mike Tomlin. Or Lovie Smith. Or Rod Marinelli, back when it looked as if he could win a few games.

Morris also is, in a lot of ways, the anti-Gruden. All of that factored into the decision the Glazers made Friday, firing Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen and putting Morris and long-time personnel executive Mark Dominik in their spots.

So who is Morris?

We'll likely find out a lot more Saturday, when an introductory news conference is expected to be held. But here's the short version. Morris is 32. He was Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator -- for about two weeks.

Before that, Morris was Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach for two seasons in his second stint with the team. He first joined the Bucs in 2002 and stayed until he went to Kansas State as defensive coordinator for one season in 2006. Morris also played college football at Hofstra.

That's the bio, but here's the stuff that goes deeper than that. Morris was going to be a head coach in this league someday. Coaches who've worked with him rave about him and players who play for him do it even more vocally.

This guy is a true players' coach. He's also going to be a true fans' coach, but it might take a while to get to know him. All indications are Tampa Bay fans are going to love Morris.

  Gruden out in Tampa
  NFL.com Video
  Breaking down the Buccaneers' decision to fire Jon Gruden as head coach.

That's something that couldn't be said about Gruden. His act had worn thin in Tampa and fell apart completely when the Bucs lost their last four games to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Tampa Bay fans were outraged.

The Glazers, known for their quiet and calm, apparently were outraged as well. They took their time (three weeks) and did their homework. These guys are sharp and they talked to players and assistant coaches. Word is, Gruden didn't get glowing reviews. I think that was Jeff Garcia I saw doing cartwheels up and down Dale Mabry Highway when the firing was announced.

Part of Gruden's problem might have been that he was a bit of a showman and people stopped buying that when he didn't win a playoff game after the Super Bowl. They also stopped buying it when, year after year, Gruden and Allen just patched together the Bucs without anything that looked remotely close to a long-term plan.

That's why Gruden and Allen are gone and Morris and Dominik are getting promoted. The Bucs once ran Dungy out of town because he couldn't win the big one. They also watched as Tomlin, Smith and Marinelli worked as Tampa Bay assistants and left for head jobs and, for the most part, great success.

Maybe the Glazers looked at the Bill Cowhers and Mike Shanahans of the world before making their decision and realized what they had in their own backyard. They had a future star in Morris and the anti-Allen in Dominik, who at least has social skills.  Dominik also has a strong reputation as a personnel evaluator.

And maybe the Glazers looked around the league and saw men such as Atlanta's Mike Smith and Baltimore's John Harbaugh having success in their first seasons as head coaches on any level.

The Gruden-Allen era in Tampa Bay is over. The Morris-Dominik era is about to start. Give credit to the Glazers for keeping an open mind on this and not just going out and hiring the biggest name. That worked briefly with Gruden, but there didn't seem to be any real direction for this franchise in the last few years.

You'll hear a lot more about Morris and Dominik once the Bucs make this official, and I'm guessing they'll sound more like Dungy and former general manager Rich McKay than like Gruden and Allen. They may or may not bring instant success.

But Morris and Dominik may get a honeymoon period that had long ago expired on Gruden and Allen, and fans may have to be a little patient in the growing process.

I'm guessing Tampa Bay fans won't mind because they'll have a coach and general manager who actually are following a plan.

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