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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Morris for coach of the year? Maybe later



Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game at New Orleans, Raheem Morris has established himself as a candidate for NFL coach of the year.

But it's not a subject he wants to talk about. Too much work to do, Morris says.

"I hate to brush that aside, but those are all accolades you don't care about until you retire, and hopefully I'm far away from that," Morris said. "I’ve been in the league a long time. . . but those accolades mean nothing. I'm more interested in what our team can do if we can qualify and get into this playoff to try and see what we can do from there."

But like it or not, Morris is probably going to garner some consideration for the honor. A panel of 50 NFL broadcasters and writers will vote on the award, with ballots due by Jan. 7. The winner will be announced during the lead up to the Super Bowl in Dallas in February.

Morris' competitors include Kansas City's Todd Haley, Atlanta's Mike Smith and New England's Bill Belichick. Haley's team went from a 4-12 record to AFC West champions. Smith's Falcons have a chance to finish 14-2. And Belichick has shaped a team with a young, mistake-prone defense and little-known offensive weapons (besides Tom Brady) into a Super Bowl contender.

But Morris' 6-win improvement from last year's 3-13 record makes him a legitimate candidate. He's won nine games with the youngest roster in the NFL and, equally impressive, the league's lowest payroll. And the Bucs have overcome a litany of injuries that most figured would undermine any chance of a winning season. If the Bucs make the postseason, that would greatly improve Morris' chances.

But under that scenario, Morris will definitely be too busy to consider his chances because he'll be getting ready to coach a playoff game.

[Last modified: Monday, December 27, 2010 2:24pm]


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