John Clayton posted an article yesterday on espn.com (here is the link http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=6155891) talking about his day 1 observations at the combine. His number 2 observation is the one that really riled my feathers. Now as any proud Buccaneers fan will undoubtedly confirm this season was fantastic. We didn't make the playoffs however in our heart of hearts I don't think there were many fans out there, myself included, who thought that the Bucs were going to do much of anything this year. The fact that we won ten games and it came down to a tiebreaker as to who was going to actually get into the playoffs was more than many of us dared to hope for. Keeping in mind that we also have to put into context how we got to 10 wins. We won a lot of close games that went right down to the wire. St. Louis, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Washington were all won by 3 or less points. We also lost some close ones like the 2 Atlanta games, and the Detroit debacle. We were competitive in almost every game. That came as a result not just of good play on the field but of unshakable coaching. Raheem Morris had this team playing lights out every game. More than that this was done with 13 players on I.R. at the end of the season and 1 player suspended for the majority of the season. There are very few coaches who could have done the job that Raheem did this season and won as many games as we did. Therefore you can understand my frustration in reading Clayton's article and seeing Tampa Bay listed as one of the teams that would potentially cut the salary of or terminate the contract of the head coach. We all suffered through the 2009 3-13 season and there was a general sentiment that Morris was not a viable option for a head coach and needed to be replaced with someone with more pizazz such as Bill Cowher. However after the gem that was the 2010 season I have been converted and believe that Raheem Morris must stay at whatever cost. Here's why:
1) Coaching- As previously mentioned he had us competitive not only in games this season but going back to that abysmal 2009 season we were dangerously close to being a .500 team. Think about the Miami game, the Atlanta game in Atlanta, the Washington game, and the Carolina game in Tampa. In each of those games we were either leading or on the brink with 2 minutes or less to go in the game. Lets flip the outcomes and say we won each of those games. All of a sudden we're a 7-9 team instead of a 3-13 team. In 2010 we did just that and you could see the progress each and every week as we got better and better. Not to beat a dead horse or anything however I don't think it can be overstated the job that Raheem did with all the injury's that plagued us this year. Almost every one of the guys that we lost were starters.
2) Continuity- One of the reasons we were so bad in 2009 was because of a lack of continuity with the coordinators and schemes. There was marked progress from the beginning of the year to the end of the year once the ghost of Jagz left the offense and Greg Olsen really got his scheme installed. In 2010 we got to see how good this young team could be. Now that we've gotten to this point with the development of Josh Freeman and the rhythm he's in with his receivers we just can't have a Jason Campbell situation happen. He was a good quarterback who might have been a solid starter however we'll never know because he changed coordinators and offensive schemes as much as the NFL changed their offers to the displaced Superbowl ticket holders.
3) Ownership- I am a loyal Tampa Bay fan but the Glaziers get under my skin. Part of me wishes that we didn't have a winning season this year because the Glaziers refused to spend any money whatsoever. They wouldn't buy the pro-rated extra tickets to home games to ensure that their fans would be able to watch the games. Out of the 4 teams in our division we have the lowest payroll by almost 10 million dollars. Yeah that's right the 2-14 Carolina Panthers spent 10 million more dollars on their payroll than we did. Despite the Glaziers frugal nature Raheem produced a 10 win team in year 2 of a complete rebuilding project.
4) Swagger- Raheem Morris is a motivator. Not just a motivator of his players but a motivator of his fans. He is unafraid to come out and say "We're the best team in the NFC. Yeah I said it." Unafraid, unabashed, uncensored, and always candid. Men like this are few and far between to begin with and when you find them you must hold on to them not cut their salary.
5) Vengeance- At this point the NFL knows that Raheem is a viable head coach. When his contract is up lets say the Bucs want to re-sign him but he thinks back and remembers how they cut his salary right after he won 10 games with the youngest team in the NFL. He could very well decide to go somewhere else and take another head coaching job. I would not want to face his new team if that did come to pass because he would be bent on sticking it to us each and every year.