Bucs coach Morris says team is "light years" ahead of 2009
Raheem Morris sat inside a coffee shop at the Omni Hotel in Indianapolis, just a long punt from Lucas Oil Stadium where the NFL Scouting Combine is being held this week.
Speaking for the first time since day after the final regular season game against Atlanta in Jan., Morris looked relaxed and confident.
Why shouldn't he be? The youngest coach in the NFL survived a brutal rookie season, in which he fired both coordinators, spun a roulette wheel of three different quarterbacks and lost his first 10 games before finishing 3-13, the Bucs' worst record since 1991.
But armed with franchise quarterback Josh Freeman and committed to building through the draft, Morris said the Bucs' are 'light years,' ahead of where they were this time last year.
"We really have the ability this year -- Mark (Dominik) and myself -- to tell you with straight faces, that we're light years ahead of where we were last year, just based on knowledge, based on what we've been able to partake, our own film study, our own tape, our own reports -- all those things that are critical,'' Morris said.
"It's got to translate onto the field. I'm not going to sit here and act like you go 3-13 and just because you're getting better and competitive every game that's acceptable. There ain't no way. I'll just tell my fans that.
"We'll welcome anybody in that stadium and we want that thing to roll over onto the field to roll into enough wins to give us the ability to compete on a one-game basis.''
Morris, who was named the Bucs defensive coordinator on Christmas Eve in 2008, learned less than a month later he would replace Jon Gruden as head coach. It was a whirlwind experience he wasn't really prepared for.
"It's been great, because right after the season at the end of (2008), it was Raheem, prepare to be defensive coordinator.'' Morris said. "Okay, great. Raheem, prepare to be Denver's head coach. Okay, great. Raheem, go back and hire coaches on your defensive staff. Raheem, now you're the head coach of the Bucs. You're into the press conference. What are we going to do? Who's the quarterback?''
Ten days before the regular-season opener, Morris fired former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski as his offensive coordinator, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. Then after an 0-10 start, he took over the defensive play-calling duties from Jim Bates.
"Some people look at us making mistakes and trial and error,'' Morris said. "But it's kind of weird. It's almost like I got better through it. Like we talked about before, there is no blueprint when you become a head coach. You go into it, you become a manager, you become a game manager. You understand what you want to get done there. You go into the season, you've got two guys calling it and you intervene when you need to intervene and do what you need to do to try to win a game, whether you try to play aggressive or pull back. And all those things you learn going through trial and error, really with three different quarterbacks and three different styles. You get used to how you want to be and what you want to be, forming your identity, so to speak, for a year.''