NFL Nation: Coach of the Year

Coach Raheem Morris met with the Tampa Bay media Monday, which is a pretty strong sign he at least will coach the final game of the season (Sunday at Atlanta). But Morris’ future is still open to plenty of speculation.

Morris made it sound like he plans on being back next season.

[+] EnlargeRaheem Morris
AP Photo/Brian BlancoDespite a nine-game losing streak, coach Raheem Morris says he believes in the Bucs' future.
“I will never fire myself,’’ Morris said. “We go out and you don’t go from being a Coach of the Year candidate to being the worst coach in the league to getting 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, in what we do and in everybody in this building, so it’s a buying in factor. And either you’re buying in or you [aren’t]. We wanted to build this thing young and develop a team that goes out and wins and wins consistently."

Morris is accurate about the team being young. The Bucs are the NFL’s youngest team for the second straight year. But the part about being a candidate for Coach of the Year one season and not getting fired the next season, doesn’t exactly hold up to recent league history. The Kansas City Chiefs fired third-year coach Todd Haley after they started 5-8 this season. Haley and the Chiefs went 10-6 last season and made the playoffs.

The Bucs went 10-6 last season and didn’t make the playoffs. They started 4-2 this season, but have lost nine consecutive games. What’s more troubling is the Bucs seem to have regressed as the season has gone on. They recently have been blown out by teams with records below .500 (Carolina twice and Jacksonville).

Morris said what’s happening this season is part of the growing pains of a youth movement.
"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 at certain positions, sometimes you have to get worse before you get better. And going out and getting a young middle linebacker [Mason Foster] was something that we decided to do and we did it. Whether or not at the beginning we were both on the same page or all three of us including the Glazers were on the same page doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we decided to do it and we went out and did it.’’

Morris is talking like he still plans to be around, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be back. The ultimate decision will be up to ownership. One way or the other, I would expect some sort of decision shortly after the Bucs finish their season.
BradyStew Milne/US PresswireNew England quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions during the Patriots' four-game winning streak.
No. 12 deserves the NFL's Most Valuable Player award this season. But it's not who you think.

Contrary to popular belief, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not this year's MVP. That distinction, for the second straight year, should go to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Now, before you roll your eyes, open your mind and hear me out.

Brady won the award last year during New England's 14-2 run, and he deserves to be just the second back-to-back MVP since 1998. This is not to discredit Rodgers, who is having a tremendous season. But sometimes numbers and hype get in the way of what the Most Valuable Player award, by definition, actually means.

The award is meant for the player who is the most important to their team. Let that sink in, because this is a key element to this debate.

Rodgers has been lights out and putting up great numbers for undefeated Green Bay (12-0). But what happens if you take Rodgers off the Packers? They won't be 16-0, but the defending Super Bowl champs would still keep the ball rolling with highly touted backup Matt Flynn and make it to the playoffs.

Green Bay has enough stars on offense (Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson) and big-time playmakers on defense (Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, B.J. Raji) to win plenty of games without Rodgers. I think Green Bay could even win the NFC North this year without Rodgers, considering the Chicago Bears (7-5) lost quarterback Jay Cutler, the Detroit Lions (7-5) are inconsistent and the Minnesota Vikings (2-10) stink.

In contrast, consider this: Where would the Patriots be without Brady?

With the NFL's worst-rated defense and no true superstars on the roster minus Brady, some believe New England would be similar to the Indianapolis Colts (0-12) this year without Peyton Manning. I'm not ready to go that far. But New England certainly would have a losing record.

Little-known backup Brian Hoyer or rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett have virtually no chance of getting this Patriots team to the playoffs. New England is too weak in other areas and couldn't afford poor play at quarterback.

And please do not point to what happened in 2008. That Patriots team had a top-10 defense and was much more balanced. Quarterback Matt Cassel is a former Pro Bowler who led the Patriots to 11 wins. Cassel was way more advanced and developed than Hoyer and Mallett.

The "Brady factor" in New England is clearly stronger than the "Rodgers factor" in Green Bay.

Without Brady, the Patriots would be challenging the Buffalo Bills (5-7) and Miami Dolphins (4-8) for third or fourth place in the AFC East this season. I'm sure New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan would be happy about that.

For those who want to focus only on the numbers, Brady's statistics are right on Rodgers' heels. In fact, Brady (3,916) has thrown for more yards than Rodgers (3,844) and is on a faster pace to eclipse Dan Marino's single-season passing record of 5,084 yards.

Also, Brady has thrown for 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the past month. Brady hasn't thrown a pick since Nov. 6. Rodgers has two interceptions the past three weeks.

The coach of the year award often doesn't go to the coach with the most victories. The award usually goes to the coach who overcomes the most hardship and does more with less. That is why San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will most likely get the nod this year over Green Bay counterpart Mike McCarthy.

Just like McCarthy probably will not win the coach of the year, Rodgers should not be the MVP this season. The cupboards are very full in Green Bay, and neither faced much hardship in their quest for an undefeated season and another Super Bowl title.

Brady is doing more with far less talent around him and is much more valuable to New England's success.

So forget that other guy wearing No. 12. Brady is this year's MVP.

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