In the most shocking move of the offseason, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners, the Glazer family, announced the dismissals of both head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.
It is expected that current defensive coordinator, 32-year-old Raheem Morris will be announced head coach today, along with former pro personnel director Mark Domenik to the general manager position.
For Tampa Bay, a 9-3 start preceded an winless December, with the Buccaneers missing out on a play-off berth for the fourth time in six seasons. Whilst many have speculated that former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's announcement to leave the team at the end of the season contributed hugely to the defensive collapse, the Glazer family have gone for a full retooling of their ailing franchise.
Jon Gruden became the youngest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl in 2003, but the roller-coaster of results in following years eventually took their toll. The Bucs have been unable to establish a true franchise quarterback, with Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Luke McCown and Jeff Garcia all seeing action over Gruden's tenure.
Bruce Allen has always been perceived as a salary cap manager rather than a talent evaluator, and Buccaneer drafts under his tenure would support that. Under his direction, however, the Bucs have around $46 million to spend on re-signing their numerous free agents (including leader receiver Antonio Bryant) and make a run at some upgrades this offseason.
Morris has never been a head coach at any level, although Denver were reportedly very impressed with his interview. The Glazer family seem to be taking an option that much of the league has, in finding a young coach to revitalise a stagnant team. Last time they did it, the Bucs won a Super Bowl.
Morris is a motivator and a high-energy type of character. He is thoroughly popular with the players and has already begun filling defensive vacancies with the return of 2001-2006 linebackers coach Joe Barry to the fold.
New G.M. Mark Domenik has spent 14 years with the Bucs, joining the team in 1995 as a pro personnel assistant under then general manager Rich McKay. He recently interviewed for the general manager position with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Glazers have shocked fans and players alike with this move, but with nearly $50 million under the cap, the Buccaneers will attempt to affirm the direction of the team over the spring. The Buccaneers have a strong, young core in place, with a sprinkling of veteran leadership on the roster.
More talent is needed at wide receiver, along with some pass-rush from the defensive line. Morris must now select a quarterback, whether veteran Jeff Garcia or unproven Luke McCown returns.
Brian Griese is still under contract, but is not the answer. Josh Johnson is raw and still very much a project. A first-day draft pick may prove to be the answer for long-term stability.
"Our ultimate goal every year is to win a championship," Glazer said. "And that's always been our goal and it will remain our goal and we're going to go about things to attain the goals we believe in.
"And we have core fundamental beliefs that we've had since the day we got here. And we thought it was important for our core fundamental beliefs that we make a change."
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