Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A Season of Uncertainty
"It's the media's job to have low expectations," Morris, 32, said. "It's my job to change them."
Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are faced with a season of certainty. A new head coach and coordinators. A new general manager. A new quarterback. A new defense, minus Hall of Fame bound Derrick Brooks, to say nothing of a gruelling schedule, which includes a trip to London to face the New England Patriots.
"There have been low expectations since I got here," Morris said.
"Expectations were low in 2007, and we went to the playoffs. Expectations were low last year, and we won nine games. We've got some players here. We've got enough. We've got to make it enough."
In the eyes of many, this is the biggest problem the Buccaneers face.
With the 2009 regular season opener less than four months away, several Bucs have much to prove.
Players like DE Gaines Adams, WR Michael Clayton, and SS Sabby Piscitelli now have to deliver as full-time starters.
Gaines Adams led the team with 6.5 sacks in 2008, but new defensive coordinator Jim Bates expects much more from the fourth overall selection in the ‘07 draft. Adams lacks variety in his repertoire and he has been far too easy for tackles to steer him wide and away from the quarterback.
Bates has got production out of pass rushing defensive ends before, most notably former Pro Bowler Jason Taylor in Miami. Morris will hope that Adams can reach double digit sacks for 2009.
Clayton, newly contracted for another four years at around $10 million, has been unproductive since a superb rookie year in 2004. This is his opportunity to succeed under new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and prove he was under-utilized in Jon Gruden’s scheme.
Sabby Piscitelli started five games last year for injured Jermaine Phillips and intercepted two passes, but he was caught out of position too often and must prove that he is up to the task, especially now that Phillips has moved to linebacker.
Las Vegas oddsmakers say the Bucs will struggle to win seven games this season and doubt if the franchise can post a third consecutive winning record.
Most outside of One Buccaneer Place do not rate these 2009 Buccaneers. Andrew Perloff of SI.com projects the Bucs to finish the season with the No. 3 draft pick.
Todd McShay of ESPN has them picking 12th. Peter King of Sports Illustrated ranks the Bucs 26th in his power rankings and Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline ranks them 22nd.
Jason Cole, the NFL columnist of Yahoo.com, has the Bucs ranked 32nd in his power poll. Bodog.com makes them 40-1 to win the Super Bowl, and only nine teams have higher odds.
"I don't care how bad a team is rated coming into the season, nobody is going to give you a win in this league, period," said wide receiver Antonio Bryant after the Buccaneers' "organized team activity day" (OTA) practice on Wednesday.
"Everybody's starting off at zero. A win is a win. No matter how we get those wins, we get them. The goal is to win as many as you can to get to that second tier. The second tier is the playoffs, and then you continue from there."
Morris is attempting to go directly from a position coach (secondary) to a head coach at the age of 32. That’s a tough transition for anyone, especially for the coach of a rebuilding franchise that lacks an established quarterback.
Relative unknown Luke McCown believes that it’s his job to lose, whilst veteran Byron Leftwich is very much in the running. Don’t forget that the Bucs spent a first round draft pick on one Josh Freeman of Kansas State, with whom Morris is particularly enamoured. With this the case, it is not surprising that bookmakers are mistrustful of this new look franchise.
"You can't worry about other people's expectations," Morris said. "We have our team goals, and our team goals are to win championships. NFC South championships. Conference championships. World championships. When we start thinking about those as our goals, we've got issues."
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