How low can you go? - Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik enter 2010 officially on the hot seat, already. That meeting with the Glazers offered up support for the young coach, but it probably didn't offer anything for beyond 2010 without some results. And even so, the support probably did not come unconditionally. There is a good chance ownership asked or set some conditions for the leadership of the Buccaneers, conditions we will probably never know about if they even do exist. Not all of these things fall solely on the shoulders of Mr. Morris, or GM Dominik, Doug Williams, and perhaps even the Glazers themselves should share some of the blame for the first 3-13 season since 1991.
Changing away from the Tampa Two only to return anyways: The word is the OC and DC decisions were done with hands held by the Glazers, if not with a note of permission from the brothers themselves. The idea with the defense was for the Bucs to become more physical of a team, something Jim Bates led defenses had always been. The corners were going to play a little meaner up front, jamming receivers at the line, and getting more pressure from the D line before the receivers could get open. In essence, the Bucs would change the basic principles of its D line. This was disastrous. The Bucs had hand picked their defensive players for their 'Tampa Two' system that has been a staple here for the better part of two decades. Once Raheem Morris kicked the new system to the curb, the turn-around has been nothing less than dramatic. So the question must be asked...Whose Idea was it, and make sure it doesn't happen again. 2010 Outlook: Expect Raheem Morris to continue to coach the Bucs Defense in addition to the overall team itself, as the Bucs will try to return to their dominating use of the Tampa Two, with Raheem's little flirtations to it. Under Morris, the Tampa Two looks like a little more aggressive, attacking version of the defense than it did under Monte Kiffin.
Wasting a full offseason on Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich: Leftwich has a 3.5 million dollar roster bonus due in March, something tells me he is not going to be around to collect. Which would mean the entire offseason; the OTAs, Preseason, Training Camp, was all wasted on two guys who will not even be around one calendar year later. Leftwich would start 3 games until it became obvious opposing defensive coordinators were game-planning to put pressure in Leftwich's face, and it worked. McCown was traded to Jacksonville, and the one guy who it turns out could have used the reps was not ready until the season was half way over. 2010 Outlook: Josh Freeman goes into the offseason the undisputed starter and gets 100% of the starters reps. Expect a major difference right off the bat next season.
Not having a better plan in place before abandoning the Offensive Coordinator: When Morris decided to jettison Jim Bates as DC and take over himself; the Bucs had a plan in place when they entertained the thought. Not so when Jeff Jagodzinski was fired 10 days before the season started. We have heard the reasons; the playbook was too simple, there was little to no detail to the offense, in short, it wasn't NFL Caliber. But the Bucs had nothing to fall back on. Greg Olsen was an offensive coordinator before with St. Louis, even having a 6th ranked offense for the Rams in 2007. But it was a patchwork system, with some of Jags playbook, some of Olsen’s plays, and some of Jon Gruden's playbook. The result was an offense that lacked an identity, and any kind of commitment to trying to come into one until the last three games of the season. The offensive linemen were told to lose weight, learn the zone blocking system, then scrap the new system for a more elementary smash mouth one, and subsequent instructions to regain weight again. The end result: the one positive going into 2009 the Bucs had, got changed into just another negative, and the O line needs to rebound into a force again in 2010. 2010 Outlook: At this point it looks like the Bucs are still going into the offseason with Olsen as the OC. There will be a finite list of people responsible if the play-calling stinks next year.
Not having a solid plan with the running attack: In the first game, Cadillac Williams showed everyone his knees were healed, and his efforts were rewarded; with replacement in the game by Derrick Ward. The coaching staff was never able to commit to a steady rushing attack, partly because there never was one, for multiple reasons. With the disarrayed Offensive Line, and the defense allowing scores so fast that the Bucs were often behind as often and as early as the end of the first quarter. Still, in the winning streak at the tail end of the season, the Bucs never really got away from the run and it came through eventually in those games in the second half. It took that long for the coaching staff to figure out that the hot hand is the one you want to feature. Spelling a back is one thing, replacing him is another all together. 2010 Outlook: If the last three games are to be taken for example, expect Raheem and Olsen to lean on Cadillac in the upcoming year, with someone to spell him; either Ward or Graham, neither of which got a fair shot last year due to circumstances listed here.
Poor in game and clock management decisions: It seemed during the beginning part of the year Raheem Morris listened to his players rather than his coaches when it came to deciding on when to challenge a play on the repay system. Not that the results of the games were really in question, but situational coaching is something Bill Belichick specializes in teaching, the Bucs need to take a page from his book. As the year went on, these improved by leaps and bounds. 2010 Outlook: Nothing you can do about this... Coaches are no different than players, they make rookie mistakes too. Lucky for us, Morris took his lessons in a year that wasn’t going anywhere anyways. Raheem Morris in 2010 is no longer a rookie coach, nor will he be judged as one.
On the Up and Up, these things the Bucs got right in 2009...
Draft 2009: The list of failures was starting to get embarrassing. It was so bad Bo Jackson called and said the Bucs cant draft talent. Now it takes 3 to 4 years before you can really grade out a draft. So we have to temper things a little, but for the most part, the Bucs 2009 draft has a lot of potential. From the get go, Josh Freeman has great potential to be special, and he was round 1. Round two, the Bucs traded for Kellen Winslow Jr, and all he did was break the Bucs Tight End record for total yardage from the position since Jimmy Giles! Roy Miller will contribute in the future, and Sammy Stroughter was the steal of the draft, and we have heard a buzz about EJ Biggers. What could go wrong in 2010? : Winslow and Stevens do not have the beef enough to block, and we all know about a one dimensional player who cant catch but can block? Well our tight ends are the opposite of that.
Cadillac is Back: An amazing thing happened in 2009, Cadillac Williams played in every single game (16) for the first time ever in his career. This comes on the heels of his contractual situation with Tampa Bay. Expect the Bucs to bring back their prized ride, and ride they will. His knees have been proven to be able to take the rigors of a full season, and with his ability to catch the ball, he is truly a feature back now. What could go wrong in 2010? : Any number of things that have to do with contracts, such as bad feelings, money, etc. The arrival of a new running back that could affect the chemistry of the backfield is another thing that could work against the Bucs.
Hitting the eject button on the Veterans let the young guys play with the training wheels off: Its quite possible Derrick Brooks leadership could have helped the Bucs lockerroom, but probably not with more than one extra win. Instead, we would be going into 2010 wondering if Geno Hayes has what it takes, and the same with Quincy Black. Several young Buccaneers got valuable playing experience once veterans moved on. Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard might have converted a few more first downs, but would have set the Bucs back a full season by still being here. Sammy Stroughter benefited the most, but not to discount the opportunity tat Maurice Stovall took. Warrick Dunn probably would have moved a chain or two, but Cadillac, Ward and Graham suffered enough. What could go wrong in 2010? : Sorry, but in this situation, there is little to no downside to starting the youngsters over the Seniors, who would have all been out the door by now for sure regardless of how you felt another year would have played out for the men. The missing leadership roles will start to be filled out from within, the way Brooks and Sapp led in their day.
Having Jim Bates walk the plank: Know this, Jim Bates should by NO means hang his head in Tampa Bay, the failure here with his 2 gap, corners up system was with the organization hiring him knowing full well the way he runs a defense, without being committed to running the same plan with men needed to implement it correctly. Defensive Tackle Chris Hovan was told to gain a little weight. That was about the extent of the commitment to the plan. Terrence Cody would have brought a tear to Bate's eye, but instead the Bucs pretty much kept all the guys they needed to go right back to the defense that made the town famous. After Morris had watched the helpless men allow New Orleans to walk all over them, he deduced the players were having problems with fundamentals because they simply were not in the right frame of mind working a system that just wasn’t for them. The rushing yardage allowed hasn't changed by as much, as the linemen have been a problem on this team for years. But the scoring of points dropped almost by half! And that is what the Tampa Two was the most famous for, being a bend but dont break defense. Points against went from 29 per game to 17 per game against, and this allowed the Bucs to be competitive in their final games. What could go wrong in 2010? : Morris could promote someone to run the defense for him, and hopefully if he does he will choose wisely. A candidate with T2 experience would be preferable to someone completely new, but I think at this point, everyone would welcome the news Raheem is the Defensive Coordinator for the season to come.
Setting up Draft Day 2010 and Gaines Adams: Bucs brass deserve a metal for the coup they pulled on the Bears by unloading a house full of termites while getting 75 cents on the dollar for it back! The Bears fans are completely fed up with Lovie Smith for trading away their first two picks, which on the heels of a 7-9 season are top 10. In the mean time, the Bucs thanks to their quick hands have dealt themselves a nice hand that includes 3 of the top 50 players, and 5 of the best 99 players in college football, and all in a draft many consider to be the deepest draft in many years because of the amount of juniors declaring eligible to get in on what could be the last draft without a rookie salary cap. Anyway you look at it, the potential is there for the Bucs to stock up like they havn’t done since 1995; the year they drafted Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. What could go wrong in 2010? : The very people who picked Gaines Adams and Dexter Jackson could get brain freeze and repeat! Bucs director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey has been on the job for the last five years, and using the same formula that got us Aqib Talib, Clifton Smith, Sammy Stroughter and Josh Freeman would be very helpful to the notion of many winning seasons ahead.