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Romano: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' latest change exposes weaknesses in Dominik, Morris

They have taken the clipboard away from Jim Bates, and how can you argue with that?

Tampa Bay's defense has been abysmal. No pass rush, no run stoppers, no freaking clue. The talent is certainly subpar and that is, by far, the biggest factor in a 1-9 start. But it can also be said the coaching staff did not do a good job of adapting its schemes to fit the meager strengths on the roster.

So there is little reason this morning to question the decision to demote the defensive coordinator.

Instead, you might want to question who was responsible for hiring him in the first place.

The demotion of Bates is just the latest in a series of botched decisions by general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris. You can admire their ability to recognize and admit their mistakes, but at some point you have to ask why they are making so darned many.

The Bucs have now hired and replaced offensive and defensive coordinators within the first 10 games of their tenure. They have handed a quarterback a $2.5 million signing bonus, and then virtually gave him away before the end of training camp. They released the best placekicker in team history, gave his replacement a $2.4 million salary, and then released him a month into the season. They signed a free agent quarterback, handed him the starting job and benched him three games later.

They signed Michael Clayton to a five-year, $26 million contract that seems horribly overpriced for a receiver whose best attributes are his downfield blocking abilities. They signed Derrick Ward to a four-year, $17 million contract, and he's averaging 27 yards rushing a game.

Morris has made mistakes in clock management, play calling, practice protocol, player relations and heaven knows what else.

If it were Bill Belichick making these coaching mistakes, maybe you cut him some slack. If it were Bill Polian making these personnel decisions, maybe you give him a pass. But the reality is Morris is a rookie coach, Dominik is a rookie GM and they have already exceeded the oops meter for beginners.

At this point, why would you trust any decision they make?

I'm not saying they haven't had successes. Josh Freeman could turn out to be the franchise quarterback Tampa Bay has been seeking for a generation. Kellen Winslow was a nice pickup, and Morris and Dominik were willing to make the hard choice of releasing some popular, but fading, veterans.

The problem is a team cannot survive in this league with a so-so success rate on major decisions. When you don't spend a ton of money on free agents, you better make sure your high-profile guys come through. You better make sure your coordinators know what they're doing. And you better make sure your decisions aren't so obviously wrong that you have to correct them before your next oil change.

Here's another way of looking at it:

Have Morris and Dominik done better in their jobs than Bates did in his?

Even if you say the problem with Bates was more philosophy than performance, the hiring was still a mistake. You don't hand a guy a roster that was built for the Tampa 2, and then tell him he's free to run a completely different scheme. And then have the audacity to blame him when it doesn't work.

The issue today is credibility. Because of their youth and inexperience, Dominik and Morris started with very little. And 10 months later, they have even less.

Naturally, a lot of the grumbling is because the Bucs are tied for the worst record in the NFL. And you can argue that it's not completely unexpected when a franchise makes the decision to reshape the roster to get younger and more athletic.

But 1-9 is not the only problem. There is also the question of direction. And judgment. And perception.

The Bucs have shown little indication of being able to turn this around quickly. You do not look at this roster and see obvious building blocks for the future. The entire defensive line needs to be rebuilt. Handpicked linebacker Quincy Black has been a disappointment. So has safety Sabby Piscitelli. The offensive line has underperformed. The receiving corps is dreadful. That suggests a lot of changes are ahead, and that's why the front office's track record is so concerning.

This doesn't mean Morris and Dominik aren't capable of doing the job, but it suggests they need to get better in a hurry.

If not, the Glazers may be the ones who have to correct a couple of mistakes.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Romano: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' latest change exposes weaknesses in Dominik, Morris 11/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 7:39am]
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