Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Now in Total Transition

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IMay 20, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 14: Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs play against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 14, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The keys to the castle in Tampa Bay are now firmly in the hands of Raheem Morris.

Raheem Morris, the youthful friend of the players, one of the guys.  Never been a coordinator, his is a short resume.

The Buccaneers are now a team in total transition.

Some might call it rebuilding. It is that as well.

The last time this type of shakeup came, an accomplished defensive coordinator from the Minnesota Vikings was charged with rebuilding a previously undistinguished franchise.  Anthony Kevin Dungy was his name and he built and coached and built some more. In the process he created a proud winner and a bunch of NFL coaches from his staffs.

Morris does not have any such credentials.  With him, the ownership familythe Glazersare hoping they've latched onto the next Dungy, or maybe another Mike Tomlin. It is their hope.

There is only one problem with hope, as the old saying goes, hope is your worst enemy in the marketplace.  And this marketplace is the NFL.

Morris has an equally youthful sidekick in General Manager, Mark Dominik.  Morris replaces soon-to-be television wag Jon Gruden and Dominik is the new Bruce Allen.

The youth and transition movement didn't stop at the top. Derrick Brooks, the icon, the idol, he of multiple All-Pro honors, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, was  unceremoniously shown the door along with a host of veteran players.  Only Morris' good buddyRonde Barbersurvived this purge of proven talent.

It's a youth movement in Tampa Bay. Only problem with youth is that it can be unreliable and in need of seasoning.

There are simply more questions than answers in Tampa Bay.

The draft created more questions.

Why Josh Freeman, a Kansas State product with an undistinguished college resume?

"I'm married to him," Morris has told everyone as he has continually gushed and beamed superlatives on the 6'5'', 235-pound kid with a strong throwing arm.

They banter the term "franchise quarterback" around One Buccaneer Place these days as the OTAs are underway.

They bring up that risky word: potential.

Drafting for potential has set the Buccaneers back time and time again over the years.

Buccaneer faithful are still seeking answers to the question: "why Kellen Winslow Jr.?"

Dominik, with Morris' blessing, sent a second-round draft choice to the Cleveland Browns for Winslow, who has spent more time off the field than on it. He has never made it through a full NFL season and is said to have the knees of a 40-year-old man.  He brings enough off-field baggage to fill a UPS delivery truck.

Again, Morris and Dominik have brought up the dreaded "P" word with Winslow.  Another guy with potential.

There is some good news among all the questions.

Gone is Gruden's Hong Kong- phone-book-size playbook. It was more difficult for players to crack than the DaVinci Code. It never worked out, it was typically the Monty Kiffin defense paving the way for victories.

Kiffin is now gone and has taken his league-famous Tampa-Two defense to Tennessee. His place was taken by Jim Bates. There is little clue as to what Bates' defense will look like. Again, more questions than answers.

The offense is now the property of Jeff Jagodzinski. Hopefully his offense will be easier to learn than his last name is to spell. Word is ,he is a run-first guy. That will put the ball in the hands of Ernest Graham and free-agent acquisition Derrick Ward. Both are capable but there is no blocking fullback on the roster. More questions.

Training camp isn't that far away. Summer heat comes too soon in Tampa. It's always there before you know it.

Morris will have to prepare his team for a brutal schedule and the first seven games may be the toughest stretch any team will face in the 2009 season.

Try these on for size:

Dallas in the home opener; at Buffalo; Giants in Tampa; at Washington; at Philly, home against Carolina, then a nightmarish hop across the pond to play the Patriots in London.

How's that for a gauntlet?

Do you think Morris thinks about that gauntlet late at night?

If he's human he does.

Those are just the first seven. Add the NFC South and this team is up to its neck in opposing talent.

It could potentially get ugly.

There's that world again: potential.

New coaches, new faces, and a lot of questions.

And very few answers right now.   


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