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Soft-more Season?

For players who perform well during their rookie seasons, many have a noticeable regression during some point or all of their second year called a sophomore slump. The learning curve isn’t as kind to head coaches in the NFL.

Head Coach Raheem Morris did not have a good first year, by any means. The 2009 season was a roller coaster ride resembling "Viper" at 6 Flags; having a corkscrew, a pretzel and a few loops. Though, when all was said and done, Coach Morris gained some valuable experience during his first year at the helm.

Heading into his second year Morris’ program has a very different look. At this time last year there was a different coordinator for both sides of the ball, the quarterback position was unsettled and the team was pretty banged up. This year the Bucs are very healthy, Josh Freeman is the undisputed starter at QB and the coordinators are in place. Looks like progress has been made and lessons have been learned but when you go under the hood and take a closer look, maybe not. I believe Morris is overcompensating in an attempt to prevent repeating his past mistakes. Consequently, he could be creating new ones.

During last year’s training camp Coach Morris would call out his under performing players during his press conferences as a form of motivation. So far this year, Coach Morris has been reluctant to use this tactic.

 Alternatively, he has had a rather loose tongue when it comes to giving the unproven rookies praise. Something in his own admission, he knows he should not do. However, it hasn’t stopped him from talking up DT Brian Price and WR Mike Williams on numerous occasions.

The rookies should NOT be receiving positive feedback a few days into camp and Morris shouldn’t hold back from motivating his slumping veterans. These are two examples of mentally spoon feeding his players; making them mentally soft in the process.

Last year’s team slogan from Coach Morris was "we want to be a more physical team". It wasn’t just a slogan. Morris stuck to his guns and the 2009 training camp was noticeably more physical than in recently years past. This led to a few more injuries and brought a level of criticism to Morris’ approach.  So far this year training camp has been a less intense. The healthy veterans who were forced to fully participate last year have planned non-participation rests. While not having any major injuries is a good thing you don’t have to wonder too hard as to why that is.

Morris’ approach didn’t work out so great once the 2009 season began. Their final record of 3 – 13 is a reflection of their underwhelming physicality and execution. Of all the Bucs games in 2009 they were outscored by 7 points or more 10 times.  The 3 close losses to WAS, MIA and ATL and the 3 wins against GB, NO and SEA were the only games when the Bucs toughness was on display. Six games out of sixteen is an embarrassing stat when it comes down to whether the team was physically able to compete with the other team on the field.

This year Coach Morris has a new slogan, calling the 2010 season "a race to 10". Granted, 10 wins is a rather lofty expectation for the Bucs 2010 season; but what happened to being tough, physical, violent and going out and trying to win every game?  It’s an unusual change compared to the typical mindset of an NFL head coach and I can’t help but think it is too soft for a professional football team.

Look, I’m not saying that under Coach Gruden or Coach Dungy the Bucs were chewing nails on the sidelines. But Coach Morris’ lax program makes Dungy look like Gruden and Gruden look like Bill Cowher; all in all a far cry from reality. I think Coach Morris and the Bucs will be soft in 2010 and they might be out of "the race" by week 10. What do you think Bucs Nation?