The Buccaneers completed their worst season since 1991 with an underwhelming 20-10 loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons. The loss secured the Bucs the third overall choice in April's draft and a 3-13 record on the 2009 campaign, snapping their modest two-game winning streak.
Fans are quick to blame Raheem Morris for the debacle that was 2009, but it's not really about Raheem.
Morris didn't have a chance.
On that late January morning when the Buccaneers fired Jon Gruden, Morris was headed to the barber shop, believing he would be the Bucs' new defensive coordinator.
He was excited about the opportunity and was looking forward to the challenge of following in the footsteps of the legendary Monte Kiffin.
Then, he got the call. The Glazers told him, "Guess what Raheem, you're head coach."
At first, he declined. Perhaps it was out of loyalty to Gruden or maybe he realized that he wasn't ready yet for that kind of responsibility. After a quick conversation with his former boss, Morris changed his mind and decided to take the opportunity.
Morris changed his mind a lot this season. His ownership group and general manager decided his coordinators and when they realized that those choices were poor fits, they allowed him to fire them.
Morris had to follow his owners marching orders—find a franchise quarterback and get rid of the aging veterans. Gone were Jeff Garcia, Cato June, Joey Galloway, and future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Enter rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
Morris struggled with talent evaluation, believing the squad he had could compete and win consistently, so much so, Freeman was left on the bench while veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich battled during training camp for the opening day starting nod. McCown played a little better, but Leftwich was given the job and McCown was traded to Jacksonville.
After three weeks, Leftwich found the bench as well, leaving the Bucs with second-year pro Josh Johnson to get them to the bye.
When Freeman came in, he had few reps and had already been through two offensive coordinators.
Three different starting quarterbacks on offense, both offensive and defensive coordinators fired during the season, a leading rusher that had two torn patellas, a franchise wide receiver that missed half the season with injuries, and a defense with no veteran leadership playing in a system that wasn't suited to the personnel and a rookie quarterback.
It's no wonder they struggled. Too young, not enough veteran leadership, and no experience in the coaching box.
Raheem Morris showed his inexperience with poor game management, poor personnel choices, and indecision in which identity he wanted his team to give itself.
It's not his fault, folks. Just like his young quarterback, he didn't have the "reps" at the coaching level to warrant his position. The Glazers knew this when they hired him. They figured "rather a year too early than a year too late."
They couldn't have envisioned this.
Now, after a horrible season, they face a decision they did not want to make. The Glazers wanted Raheem to take them into the 2011 season and the potential lockout.
The fans spoke loudly today with their absence from Raymond James Stadium. The game was reported to be the 87th consecutive sell out in stadium history, but it was far from a full house. In fact, there were at least 20,000 less than the announced 62,578.
If the Glazers don't make a move, they're going to take a bath on season ticket renewals this year. The fans sense what we all realize—Morris isn't ready. Another season under him is another wasted year of the rebuilding process.
The fanbase is so disenfranchised now, believing the owners no longer care about winning, that only a real statement will prevent the mass exodus.
Without butts in the seats, the Glazers will be hard-pressed to sell a half-filled stadium for full price to their sponsors and suite holders.
If all the Glazers believe in is the almighty dollar, they're going to see a lot of it disappear this off-season if Raheem Morris is retained.
The Glazers' hand has been forced. They must make a change.
I really do like Raheem, I think he's a good coach and I believe he can be one heck of a defensive coordinator in this league. He may eventually become a good head coach down the road.
It just shouldn't be in Tampa Bay. Not if the Glazers truly have their hand on the pulse of the franchise.
Word is the Glazers weren't at the game today—they rarely miss a game. Were they in the mountains of Carolina visiting one Bill Cowher? Were they in the living room of one Mike Shanahan?
Maybe they just decided, like many Bucs fans on this Sunday, that it was too cold to be at the stadium.
I don't know what's going to happen in the next few days, but I do know that what transpired this season wasn't the fault of Raheem Morris. He was the unfortunately victim of some poor decision making by the ownership group.
Good luck, Rah. No matter what happens in the next few days or weeks, the Bucs fans thank you for giving it your best shot in an utterly impossible situation.