Morris says he would've taken Freeman No. 1 overall
"You know, I made this statement the other day. If I had the Detroit Lions' pick at No. 1, I might have taken Josh Freeman,'' Morris said. "I might have been fighting for him.''
Morris said the Glazer family was excited about the selection of a franchise quarterback like Freeman.
"The owners are very excited,'' Morris said. "They haven't had an opportunity be this excited for 15 years, and they are really pumped up. They've got a chance for a franchise quarterback, man. That's our quarterback, to quote T.O. (Terrell Owens).''
Morris, who coached at Kansas State when Freeman was a freshman, said he was aware that he was too familiar with Freeman to be completely objective. So he sat back until general manager Mark Dominik, the scouts and coaches could evaluate Freeman on their own.
"There is always a danger of having too much information on a guy,'' Morris said. "There's no question about it. And I recognized that. So early in the process, I tried to stay back away a little bit. You don't push a guy, you don't sell a guy, you don't even give your opinion of a guy because you don't want to sway people's opinion in the building. You just want him to get a chance to be around people. So you bring him in on a pre-draft visit, you meet with him at the combine, you let the coaches evaluate the tape. You talk to him later. You get their opinions. You let them tell you what they believe. And then you say what you believe. Then you get all in the same circles, all in the same hat, you mix it up and you pull out a solution. He was the solution.''
Morris said he got to know Freeman when he was a 19-year-old freshman and has kept that relationship over the years since leaving K-State to return to the Bucs in 2007.
Morris said he gave Freeman a nickname when he was at K-State, but declined to reveal it Saturday. However, Freeman has been called 'Soul Glo,' after his resemblance to a character in Coming to America.
"I was lucky enough to be there when he came in as a freshman and I watched him lead us and beat teams -- with him,'' Morris said. "We didn't have a whole lot of talent around us, but every time he walked on that field, no matter who we were playing that week, whether it was Texas or FIU. It didn't matter. You felt like you had a chance to win with this guy leading you.
"We didn't always do it. He wasn't able to lead them to as many wins as he would've liked to in his career. Hopefully, he can do that here. I'm actually positive and excited about him coming and doing it here.''
Morris said he was aware that the Bucs have plenty of needs on defense and that he bypassed some help at several positions by selecting Freeman. But he said the chance to get a franchise quarterback superceded everything else.
"Any time you get a chance to get a franchise quarterback on your football team, a guy who creates so much excitement, a guy with a big arm, a guy that's accurate, a guy that's got talent -- 6-5, 250 pounds -- who can extend in the pocket and deliver the ball and be your guy of the future, you go get him,'' Morris said. "He addresses all the needs for you.
"Just to use a guy -- Peyton Manning for example -- they had needs on defense when they drafted him as well and they filled them. It helped them out in the long run. They've been doing long-term winning. That's what I want to do around here for awhile.''
Morris said the Bucs still plan to bring four quarterbacks to training camp. They had four under contract prior to the selection of Freeman.
"Whenever you've got a chance to take a franchise guy, a guy that you know, a guy that you've got a unique relationship with, a guy you trust in, believe in, and think he's going to be the guy to carry you to the next level, you go get him,'' Morris said. "Those other needs, we'll address those needs. We're pretty good on defense. We're pretty strong on defense. Those needs, they are what they are. We all know what they are and we'll deal with them when they come.''
The Bucs need help on the defensive line, particularly at defensive tackle. They also could use a cornerback who excels in bump-and-run coverage that will be deployed by new defensive coordinator Jim Bates.
But Morris continued his effusive praise for Freeman and made his case that the chance to get what he believes is a franchise quarterback was the only way to go.
"Again, back to the quarterback, man. The quarterback,'' Morris said. "We all know you can't win in this league without a quarterback. You just can't do it. It's tough winning, man.''
Freeman is the first Bucs quarterback to be drafted in the first round since Trent Dilfer was taken sixth overall in the 1994 draft. Former Bucs coach Jon Gruden was criticized for his failure to acquire and develop a young, franchise quarterback during his seven seasons in Tampa Bay.
"You never want to say it was a failure of the franchise,'' Morris said. "I don't know how the chips fell all the time every year. Was there a guy there that we loved? Was there a guy that (former GM) Bruce (Allen) and coach (Gruden) wanted to target and just go get like there was this year for us? That was special. I went to Kansas State and met a 6-5 freshman that threw the ball all over the field and impressed me. I came back here and got to evaluate his tape and what he's done the two years after I left. I was impressed, and everybody who watched the tape was impressed when you watch it and see him spin it. That's impressive, man.''