Derrick Brooks speaks candidly on Bucs' lack of 'commitment'
Derrick Brooks is here in South Florida for Super Bowl week and took a little time from his Sirius Radio and other obligations to chat rather freely about the Bucs.
The 14-year linebacker and Hall-of-Fame shoo-in who was released before last season was adamant that there's a lack of commitment on the franchise's part to both its players and its staff.
"I was asked what’s the difference now where the Bucs are (compared to) when you go back 12 years when I was young," Brooks said. "I said this: The difference is the commitment, in terms of, where is the franchise going?
"All the coaches are obviously on one-year deals and the economics of the game of the game (a potential 2011 lockout) forced that hand. But as a franchise, they don’t have a core group of guys who are beyond three or four years. When I was young, they had that. This year, I don’t see that. The guy that was told to be the leader of the defense (linebacker Barrett Ruud), no one showed him any long-term commitment (Ruud's contract expires this month). How can he really embrace that role? It was hard for Barrett to do that. I fielded a lot of phone calls from guys on the team this year because they missed that presence. You can’t force that. ... Leaders kind of evolve from situations that are not manufactured. I did the best I could just being me, being positive to help the guys through."
Brooks also took issue with the team's initial decision to move away from the Tampa 2 system that he played so effectively for years. That experiment ended with coach Raheem Morris stripping coordinator Jim Bates of the play-calling duties in November and taking on the role himself. Things got better and the Bucs improved dramatically on defense. But the damage had been done and the Bucs finished 3-13.
"The most common thing (former teammates) were complaining about came true," Brooks said. "They wanted to go back to playing the defense they were used to playing. Raheem made that change and you see the success speaks for itself. They were comfortable in playing it and they got success late. That was the reason for that.
"When Jim Bates was hired, I was the first one in his office to greet him to find out what defense we were running. I told him, ‘Give me the information so I can process it because the guys are going to look to me.’ I was showing my support. But I knew once we (veterans) were removed from the situation, just from what I knew of the system at the time, I knew they were going to struggle because they didn’t have the players to play that system -- period.
"You can sugar coat it all you want and say the philosophy is kind of the same. Yeah, true enough. But at the end of the day, the X’s and O’s have to show up on the grass. These guys, they were never comfortable playing this defense."
Another thing Brooks said he counseled players to do was to continue to respond to Morris, even after the 0-7 start.
"That was my message more than anything to the players I talked to: stay supportive of your head coach because he’s going to need you guys to pull him out of this situation," Brooks said. "And in a sense, that’s what kind of tugged at me because I knew I could have helped. At the end of the day, I couldn’t. So, I just tried to help by supporting the players. He was learning. It was his first year as a head coach. He didn’t have all the answers. He had a lot of growing pains. But at the end of the day, when the decision was made for him to take over the defense, I think that was very critical to him keeping his job."
Brooks called Morris a great hands-on coach who loves to teach the game.
"That’s what he does (teach)," Brooks said. "You have to be able to teach when you’re running this defense. . . He showed that he can be a great head coach because he adjusted to what his players do best. And winning those games, especially when the talk was about him being replaced, he came through big and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys."
Lastly, we talked briefly about the status of Brooks' career. He now seems more resigned to the fact that, after a year out of football, retirement is probably inevitable.
For him to entertain playing again, it would have to be an ideal offer not unlike Jeremiah Trotter's return to Philadelphia in 2009.
"It would have to be a great situation," Brooks said. "I talked to Jeremiah right before he signed. That was a great situation for him to come back to. It would really have to be a great situation. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. In this game, I have no regrets. Nothing to frown upon, nothing to be ashamed of. I thank God I’ve never been (seriously) injured, no major surgeries. I’m fine.
"If I never play again, that’s great. If a situation comes that’s just too good to turn away, you jump in and you go for it."