From the Mouth of Morris is a fictional interview process. We were not actually there asking Coach these questions, however the quotes are real. Names have been changed to protect the innocent....., well not really.
Coach Morris, how did you feel about practice today (8/8)?
"Today we had a little four-minute offense, which can be boring for a fan I guess, but you've got to do it. You've got to practice it. That's an important phase of football. In 2002, we had a lot of four-minute drives and those are nice – 12 of them to be exact. Guys finishing games like that…it's a lot better to finish a game in a four-minute drive than it is to finish in a two-minute.
When you can finish in a four-minute, you can go out there and run the ball effectively; keep the chains moving; throw safe passes when you have to; make smart decisions like sliding before you go out of bounds; make smart decisions like not getting penalties to give the defense an advantage, to force your hand.
What are you going to do? You're going to have to punt; your defense is going to go back out there. If we can end that thing in victory formations, I'd be ecstatic and I'm sure you guys would be too. So that was kind of the theme of the team meeting today. That was kind of the message. That's why I called them back up during that period, because we just stressed it heavy not to have a penalty and not stepping out of bounds. The second group that went out there today – we saw Kellen [Winslow] step out of bounds and [Anthony] Alabi jumped offsides on that first play. You've got to bring it back up and catch their attention, because it's easy to get caught up in, 'Wow that was a great catch.' And it was, but it's still a situation that you've got to know, you've got to be detailed for, to do everything you can. Fall backwards if you have to stay in-bounds and keep the clock ticking, because those critical seconds there, we may need. We may need the defense to use those timeouts so their offense won't have an opportunity to use them back on us in two-minute drives. Those are the things as a head coach, those are the things as a coordinator, those are the things as a position coach, those are the things as a player that we've all got to know."
Coach, what did Kellen Winslow do today?
"He did, and he got caught up in it and ran out of bounds in four-minute. There's that emotional deal, and he knew right away. As soon as I blew that whistle, I think he looked at me. He walked over and kind of just looked at me and smiled and I looked at him and said some choice words, and he put his head up and went back to practice. It was great. But that's part of the learning process. I would rather it happen out here in front of the fans in our make-believe atmosphere rather than have it happen on Saturdays or Sundays when it counts."
What about Luke McCown, what can you tell us about him?
"We talked a little bit yesterday, about the leadership qualities that he's brought out this week and the positive things as far as leadership, the positive things as far as controlling the huddle, the positive things as far as off-the-field situational things. All those things and things he's brought to the offense – communicating with Jags [Jeff Jagodzinski]. Luke is a smart young man, he's really bright. He's brought all those things. Then he's taken it out on the field and there have been up and down days. Some days have been better than others, and he's really grown from that. That's how you've got to evaluate a quarterback. Once we get to the games, you're really going to know where Luke is. You'll really feel where Byron is. And those guys are really starting to compete. Those two have ascended to the fight. The young guys got an opportunity yesterday. They fought into it, and I'm just fired up. But Luke is really doing well. Really, those guys are truly preparing themselves to play Tennessee. There's the one guy I can't
get ready yet because I'm not going to hit a quarterback. So that's the one guy…physical, tough – hey, don't touch the quarterback. That's all good. I'm going to be smart as far as that."
...and equal billing for Byron Leftwich?
"Byron has had his up and down days. The thing that makes Byron really good is, he can be having a bad practice but he can spin one out there and you just go, 'Whoosh, that was a good practice.' You can get a misconception from that, and that's okay because that can be a game. He could be having a bad game and he could spin one down there, throw a 60-yard bomb and you say, ‘Wow, Byron played his butt off today.' Those things happen, too, and we've generated some big plays on offense. That's kind of been a big-time theme around here. Our completion percentage hasn't been what you want but our defense has dictated that, too, a little bit. With all the man-to-man coverages our defense plays, your percentages are going to do down. When you go play a zone team, your percentages should go up, your efficiency should go up but you also have opportunities [against man-to-man] to make some big splash plays down the field, which you've seen from our offense. I just think those guys are playing really well right now and I don't think I can really judge either one of them until we put some pads on them and let them go get hit."
Everyone is excited about Elbert Mack. What can you tell us about him?
"I take all the credit for E-Mac. I made him who he was last year (laughing). Elbert Mack, you have to give the kid credit. You talk about a guy that people say is too small, doesn’t weigh enough, not big enough to play in this league, shouldn’t be in this league. All he did was lead the nation in picks. Become a free agent at the Bucs, tryout, walkout, come out here maybe get a look, come our here and make our team. He shoots up the depth chart, starts a game for us, gets suspended a day for hitting a quarterback for being too physical, sits out a week, comes back, go cover Steve Smith one week at the end of the game because he’s hot, you’ve got to give the guy credit. The guy’s a fighter. Now he is competing to be the starting nickel. That’s the kind of guy we talked about the other day. We talked about the 53rd man on the team. They fight their way to the top. He’s not the 53rd man anymore. He’s making sure of it."
Coach we noticed Ronde Barber didnt have pads on. Anything wrong with him?
"No, no. Ronde, you have the old school Benz and he left it in the parking lot today. You leave the new Benz model and let them run before they need an oil change. Ronde had to go get an oil change today. There was nothing wrong. I left him up the street at the Benz dealership and I made him sign autographs during water breaks. He was the show today."
So week one is behind us, what can you tell us about week 2?
"Well now, the second week is what we have talked about. We are going to come out in the morning and are going to get a lot of work done. There is still going to be some situational stuff. The afternoon you want to come back and see guys be detailed and lock into a game plan or lock into another team and know exactly what they are doing. ‘Hey Rah, I know this is the situation but I know this team does this and we need to do this, this week. Let’s do it. Let’s practice it. Let’s rep it.’ But now it is about the preparation. So now this week we were physical, we were tough, we were all those things we talk about in the off-season. We have seen it all. We had a couple live periods and we will have a little more of that next week in the morning. In the afternoons, it is the mental part. It is the preparation part. It is your coaches preparing and seeing the players preparing is how you’re going to deal with it and how you’re are going to attack thepeople and that is the part you want to see in the second week."