It's gone from bad to absolutely ludicrous hasn't it? This season with Raheem Morris.
A season that makes Richard Williamson look like Don Shula and Ray Perkins actually Hugh Culverhouse's Vince Lombardi.
This is what happens when a neophyte General Manager and a neophyte Head Coach strip the team of veteran talent to "retool", leaving a leadership void throughout the organization.
It goes beyond that, though.
We understand where this has come from—the top. The Glazers. Up to their eyeballs in debt and seeing a lack of fan interest, the Glazers decided that now is the time to scale back a bit. Reinvent the interest in the team.
With the lockout looming in 2011 and a potential uncapped free agency session this year, the Glazers can milk this cash cow till its dry, breaking it down to it's most simplest form.
You can see the plan, can't you? Make do with Morris for a couple seasons. Spend wisely (i.e. frugally) on free agency, retain some of your core talent and garner some high draft picks over the next couple of years to replenish the the stars of old.
Come back strong in 2012 with a big name coach and a fist full of dollars. Instant excitement in the fanbase. Ticket and jersey sales galore.
2012 is our year, Bucs fans. Which coincidentally is also when the world's supposed to end.
For the Bucs, Armageddon may have come a little early.
The plan, like the Bucs ship, has run aground.
Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris have made the worst possible choices you can make as an organization.
Raheem promised the fans his offense would be violent, run based and feature a vertical passing attack under new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
What he didn't tell us was the playbook was the size of a Lee Roy Selmon's Restaurant menu.
Raheem promised a defense under new Defensive Coordinator Jim Bates that featured blitzing, pressure, and man-to-man in your face secondary coverage that should generate a bevy of turnovers. Violence in it's purest form.
What he didn't tell us was it would turn the defense into the worst in the history of the franchise because the scheme was outdated and didn't match the personnel.
Mark and Raheem told us they didn't need Derrick Brooks or Ike Hilliard or really anyone older than the coach that wasn't named Ronde Barber.
Leadership, schmeadership. New leaders would emerge, right? Only...they didn't.
Mark Dominik told us the Glazers are spending money and he did spend some of it.
On Michael Clayton. On Derrick Ward. Two players who need to be booked at the Tampa Police department for stealing because they are stealing paychecks from this organization.
Don't forget Mike Nugent, a $2.5 million dollar kicker who couldn't hit the broadside of a barn.
We have to wonder if when Morris hands the check to Clayton he says, "Don't drop it."
Oh wait, we forgot. Clayton told us "the check's in the bank". Must be direct deposit.
The players say they love Morris. I'm sure the inmates love the asylum workers when they allow them to run the place.
Early returns on this year's draft are mixed.
Freeman and Stroughter look like keepers. Roy Miller has shown flashes. Kyle Moore hasn't really gotten an opportunity to play. Xavier Fulton and EJ Biggers got hurt.
So that's what made up your team for 2009.
How naive we all were (okay, except for my fellow Bleacher Report columnist Tom Edrington), believing the spiel that this would be a hard fighting, physical football team in the Pittsburgh Steelers/New York Giants mold.
During training camp, Morris decided to have a pointless QB competition between Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich for the starting QB job.
Rather than groom your first round draft pick or the young 2nd year QB with potential, reps were devoted to McCown and Leftwich.
Despite McCown having better (albeit pedestrian) numbers in the preseason, Morris chose Leftwich and dealt McCown—leaving the Bucs without a veteran backup QB that actually had reps in the new offense.
That didn't matter though because just before the season opener, Morris suddenly realized that Jagodzinski had never called a play in his coaching career and wasn't really doing it in Tampa Bay (his man Steve Logan, the Bucs running backs coach, was calling the plays).
Gone was the focus on the run and vertical passing game. Enter Greg Olsen and the Jon Gruden "death by a thousand paper cuts" playbook.
Once teams figured out that Leftwich moved at the pace of a slug, they rendered him ineffective by blitzing unmercifully. Funny, shouldn't Morris had seen that in training camp?
Suddenly, raw second year quarterback Josh Johnson was thrust into the starting role and did about what you'd expect a fifth round draft pick to do.
Meanwhile, that great, aggressive, violent defense the Bucs were supposed to employ, you know, the one that didn't need Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Kevin Carter, or Phillip Bucchanon was giving up bombs to opposing offenses while looking like matadors against the run.
The Bucs players on defense looked bewildered most of the time. If you're not sure what you're doing, you can't play aggressive crazed dogs defense. You don't play violent, you play tentative.
Tentative gets you blasted in the NFL.
Once the Bucs hit the bye week and their losing streak stretched to eleven, the time came to turn the ball over to Freeman.
But Freeman can't establish a running game. Freeman can't tackle or stop the run. He can't catch the football. He can't call plays or mold a defense that matches the personnel.
He's just a neophyte (there's that word again) QB who needs time to develop. A receiver or two wouldn't hurt, either.
Ten games into the season, Raheem Morris has finally figured out what we all already knew about the defense.
There was a time in Tampa Bay when the defense said, "Give us 17 points and we'll win."
Now it's "Give us 17 points and we'll only lose by 21."
Why Morris steered away from the Tampa Two, we'll never know, but now—with just six games left in the season—the Bucs are apparently going back to it. Better late than never, I guess.
Let's not forget the halftime adjustments—or lack thereof. The Bucs have the worst point differential in the third quarter in the NFL. In other words, while their opponents are adjusting to what the Bucs are throwing at them, the Bucs apparently are not.
Add that to poor clock management and challenges. Both pitiful under Morris.
So, let's review. Bad choices at offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. Poor decisions in free agency. An average draft (so far). An idiotic QB competition. Poor coaching schemes, lack of halftime adjustments, poor clock management, and challenge usage. Players bewildered, tentative and lacking veteran leadership.
It's not hard to see how a team that at one point last season was 9-3 and fighting for home field advantage in the NFC is now 1-9, competing for the first overall draft pick.
If you count the money to Gruden, Allen, their coaching staff, McCown, Mike Nugent, Jagodzinksi and now Bates, the Glazers are paying over $30 million dollars for people not to be here.
This is not what they were looking for in their stopgap.
The sad tragedy of this is that it's not likely to change any time soon (unless the Glazers sell).
Morris and Dominik will likely weather this season and get 2010. The Glazers aren't going to pay a top line coach to sit on his behind during a lockout, especially since Jon Gruden and Allen's contracts will be up after next season.
What top coach will come here, knowing the ownership won't spend a dime until 2012?
So buckle up Bucs fans, because 2010 and 2011 don't look much better than 2009.
Any word if that solar flare, meteor, or whatever it is on December 21, 2012 can get here sooner?
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