Exactly when do you think it happened? I mean, it’s been a rough first year as a head coach for Raheem Morris, so whispers of a coaching change are eminent. It’s been musical coordinators, lopsided losses and disappointment. It’s been close games, missed opportunities and frustration.
Now, it’s a two-game winning streak, a win on the west coast, a division win against an NFL juggernaut, and a Buccaneer team that just might be figuring out how to play football, and Morris’s seat is hotter than ever.
When I hear the name Bill Cowher, a lot comes to mind. A tough, hard-nosed, old school coach. Super Bowl champion. His way or the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Hmm, sounds a lot like a guy the Bucs fired last season. You know, the one who the players didn’t enjoy playing for and wanted too much control, so he got booted to the Monday Night Football booth. You know the guy.
Now, everyone wants Cowher, the suddenly eligible bachelor on the coaching front, to swoop down to Tampa and scoop up a franchise, lifting them heroically back to the playoffs. And it’s this sort of myopic, knee-jerk attitude that got the Bucs in in this situation in the first place.
Tampa Bay is not a head coach away from being a contender. They’re a playmaking wide-receiver and an offensive lineman away. They’re a defensive tackle and a ball-hawking safety away. They’re an open wallet from the Glazer family and a couple of experienced free agents away.
There’s a lot to draw Cowher to Tampa. It’s sunny, most of the time. It’s currently late December and I’m wearing basketball shorts, sitting comfortably outside my local Panera Bread with a cup of coffee and a late tee time. There’s a struggling football team seeking an identity for him to take over and turn around, growing and cementing his legend. Seems like a no-brainer: Our specialty.
When you look to replace a head coach, or any coach for that matter, it’s important to look at the big picture. It’s like the girl you’ve been dating for a short time and things just are not going as planned, so you’re thinking about cutting her loose. There’s a reason you started dating her in the first place, isn’t there? Now, if you decide she was just the sexy option, and it’s not going to work long term, cut her loose. Everyone knows that. However, if she was the right fit from the start, and things have just been a little rocky, give it time and give the girl a chance.
Give Morris a chance to do what he was hired to do. Remember why he was hired in the first place. Cowher’s replacement in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin, was once a defensive backs coach in Tampa. With Monte Kiffin’s job safe at the time, he knew he couldn’t be promoted to defensive coordinator here, so he took the position in Minnesota. The following year he became a head coach, eventually leading his team to a Super Bowl win.
The Buccaneers saw the same potential in Morris. He wasn’t hired to get to the playoffs this year. He was hired to be a long-term solution. He was hired to build a team that could compete every year: A team like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis or New England, all empires that were not built overnight.
Cowher is the sexy option right now, and nobody can take anything away from him or what he has accomplished. He’s a Hall of Fame coach and he’s always done things the right way. Much respect, Bill.
However, when the Glazers come calling, because they will, and before you talk money, because they don’t want to, think before picking up that phone. Because, no disrespect, we already have a head coach. And if the way Morris has the Buccaneers playing right now isn’t enough to earn him the kind of security a head coach needs to be comfortable, it’s probably not a place you want to coach anyway.
A little loyalty isn’t a whole lot to ask for.