They came to plead his case. They came to defend his name. They came to protect his back.
And, as is so often the case with the Tampa Bay Bucs, they failed at that, too.
Raheem, it appears you are on your own.
This was the plan, wasn't it? The Bucs were going to go onto the field Saturday night, fueled by prime time and bright lights, and they were going to bring evidence that Raheem Morris was the coach for them. On national television, they were going to fight for their coach, by golly. They were going to quiet the critics, stop the noise and end the debate.
Well, that settles that.
And your honor, the prosecution rests. Soon, it seems, the execution will, too.
As far as any lingering debate over Morris, this should just about do it. How can the Glazers not demand more than this?
Argue, if you will, that this team was just too young, or that the owners were just too cheap, or that the roster had more holes than spackle to patch them all. All that noted, there isn't enough improvement to this roster for Morris to keep his job. This team is lost. It does not have enough maturity, or enough resilience, or worst of all, enough effort to stay on this wayward course.
This was too ugly for human eyes, and where have you heard that before except every week for two months? The Bucs made it close with a couple of scores in the third quarter, but that doesn't change things. The players of the Bucs provided a rather weak argument that Morris should keep his job — or that they should keep theirs. They lost for the eighth straight time, a number that should climb to 10 over the next two weeks, at which time the unraveling should be complete.
This is how a team defends a beleaguered coach? This is how it demonstrates how important he is to them?
By fumbling on the fourth play of the game?
By giving up 28 points in the first half?
By making one first down on its first four possessions, while Dallas was piling up 19?
By surrendering more than 30 points for the fourth time in five games?
By playing with such little effort that Cowboys Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders accused the Bucs of quitting, the third time this year someone has done so?
By not picking up your second first down of the night until the 4:46 point of the third quarter?
This isn't a great Dallas team, by the way. If the Bucs took the pressure off any coach, it was Jason Garrett. Along the way, Tampa Bay made Tony Romo look like Roger Staubach and Felix Jones look like Emmitt Smith. And so on. The Bucs made it sound closer with two touchdowns in the third, but to be honest, it never felt as if Dallas was threatened. The Cowboys only tried eight passes in the second half, which seemed very Christmassy of them.
Meanwhile, the Bucs looked like the Bucs. Lopsided defeats such as this one have become so routine, so ordinary, they no longer shock you. And that's the real shame around here. The expectations have been whittled down to zero. At this point, it is uncertain if the Bucs will ever win another game. Okay, that's an exaggeration. If things go well, there is a Sunday in early 2017 that looks doable.
Until then, chaos.
Followed by pestilence. And a funny smell.
For crying out loud, around here, no one can even muster a good "wait until next year." Unless there are massive changes, next year doesn't look so good, either. The NFC East is up in the rotation, which means the schedule will be difficult again. Do you expect players who didn't improve this year to get it by next year? Do you expect playoffs by the end of another season?
While we are at it, do you expect Raheem?
Hey, I have nothing against loyalty. I think it's great the players support their head coach. Tight end Kellen Winslow suggested it would "ruin" the Bucs if Morris was replaced, though at this point it seems someone got there first. Ronde Barber, who has been around a few coaches, defends Raheem vociferously.
On the other hand, players often have loyalty for losing coaches. But when a team has gone oh-for-half-a-season, why should players get a vote? Besides, if the Bucs really wanted to affect Morris' job status, they should have played better, and harder, to avoid this eight-game streak of horrible.
This should be the closing argument. This should be the reason that Jeff Fisher spends the next week by his phone. Brian Billick, too.
At this point, it is no longer a question of why the Bucs would fire Morris. At this point, it is why they would not.