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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Players stepping up to support Morris

By Pat Yasinskas

There’s one encouraging trend emerging when it comes to the future of Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris.

He seems to still have the locker room. Center Jeff Faine used very strong words Wednesday to say he believes Morris should not be let go after a first season that hasn’t gone well at all. Injured safety/linebacker Jermaine Phillips made some pretty similar comments Monday.

Raheem Morris
With the Bucs at 1-12, Raheem Morris has come under fire in his first season as head coach.
This is significant. I covered the end of the Sam Wyche era in Tampa Bay and the final days of George Seifert’s disastrous era in Carolina. In those locker rooms, nobody -- and I truly mean nobody -- was stepping forward in defense of the coach.

Does it really matter what the players think? Yes, it absolutely does. Most owners around the league try to get a sense of where the players stand before firing a coach. Although the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, does operate with a great deal of stealth in the public eye, the three brothers who run the team are very smart and always very aware of what’s going on in their building.

I’m sure they’ve seen the quotes from these players and they might have heard some of the same straight from players. I’m not reporting here that the Glazer brothers have been surveying players, but that wouldn’t surprise me.

At any rate, this kind of support can only help the chances of Morris sticking around for a second season. If the players still believe in him, that’s a big positive.

One thing I found very interesting was Faine’s response when asked about Morris firing both his offensive and defensive coordinators already. The public assumption is that Morris made the hires of Jeff Jagodzinski and Jim Bates totally by himself.

Faine indicated that might not have been the case. I’ve never heard any indication that Jagodzinski and Bates weren’t the guys Morris wanted and the rule of thumb around the league is that a coach usually hires his own coaching staff.

But this statement by Faine makes me wonder a bit. I do know for a fact that, at the very least, ownership didn’t allow Morris to do everything he wanted with the support staff. And I also think there’s a realization high in the organization that general manager Mark Dominik probably could benefit from a stronger surrounding cast in the front office.

Of course, the best thing that could happen for Morris' future would be for the Bucs, particularly rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, to go out and play well (just show some signs of progress) in the final three games. That might be enough to keep Morris in place, although I think that would come with some movement on the coaching staff, in the front office and heavy turnover on the roster.