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Senior Bowl trip keeps new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris moving

New Bucs coach Raheem Morris said he will hire offensive and defensive coordinators.

CARRIE PRATT | Times

New Bucs coach Raheem Morris said he will hire offensive and defensive coordinators.

TAMPA — Forty hours after Raheem Morris had become the youngest coach in the NFL, he ducked into the tiny cabin of a twin turbo propeller plane operated by Continental airlines for a flight to Pensacola.

The sun had only begun to peek from under a blanket of fog on the horizon and Morris had miles to go before he could sleep.

He would rent a car for the one-hour drive to Mobile, Ala., to attend the Senior Bowl, where he planned to begin interviews for his new coaching staff. Later, he would brave an icy wind to watch the North squad practice.

Light to dark, dark to light, the 32-year-old Morris still is fueled by adrenaline.

"It feels like one continuous day," Morris said before the Beechcraft 1900D started down Runway 36 right.

A friend pointed out to Morris over the weekend that he hadn't even had time to think about his contract, what he described as a four-year deal that might involve a club option for the final season. It's thought to average about $2 million per year.

He tried to enjoy a quiet moment alone over the weekend to let it all sink in. "It's still hard for me to believe," Morris said.

But there's too much to do — like hiring an offensive and defensive coordinator — to reflect.

"He's running on adrenaline," quarterbacks coach Greg Olson said Monday. "And he hasn't had much sleep."

Here's how totally unprepared Morris and the Bucs were for the firing of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen:

Morris had just left his barber shop Friday when one of the Glazer co-chairmen called him on his cell phone, asking him to return to One Buc Place. Morris, who had been named defensive coordinator on Christmas Day, assumed someone wanted to discuss the makeup of his defensive staff.

But regardless of how or why Morris and new general manager Mark Dominik were hired, they both have an important job.

Morris decided to hire offensive and defensive coordinators. "Have you ever seen a first-year head coach do one of those jobs and be successful?" he asked.

He says the organization will have better communication going forward. "I'm going to be visible; I'm going to get out there in the community," Morris said, talking of a trait Gruden rarely demonstrated.

On Sunday, Morris telephoned Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Tomlin, 36, is the youngest coach in Super Bowl history and has set the bar pretty high for his protege.

Of course, Morris is a realist and knows he didn't inherit a team that recently won a Super Bowl the way Tomlin did in Pittsburgh. "I told him I still became a head coach (younger) than he did," Morris said.

At some point, Morris plans to move his parents from New Jersey to Tampa.

"It's nice to be in a position to do that," Morris said. "It's time for them to retire someplace warm."

Eventually Morris, like the aircraft he arrived in, will return to Earth. But as he walked from the Pensacola terminal, it was difficult to tell if his feet were touching the ground.

FILLING OUT STAFF MAJOR PRIORITY

It's going to be a busy week for new Bucs coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. The first order of business is to complete the coaching staff, including both coordinator positions.

. Former Rams coach Scott Linehan is considered a top candidate for the offensive coordinator position. But there are other candidates, including Chiefs offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, former Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, the Rams offensive coordinator in 2006-07. In his first season, the Rams ranked fourth overall before slipping to 24th. After being told by Linehan his play-calling duties would be replaced, he chose to join the Bucs as QB coach. "I'm looking forward to sitting down with Raheem," Olson said. According to Olson, quarterback Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese want to return to the Bucs next season. Garcia is a free agent; Griese is under contract.

. Up to seven other teams could be in the market for an offensive coordinator — Detroit, New England, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, plus possibly Kansas City and Carolina.

. Fired Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs reportedly is a candidate for the same position in Tampa Bay, but he has coached defensive backs.

. In other news, pro personnel executive Doug Williams is optimistic he will remain with the team. His contract expires next month.

Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

Senior Bowl trip keeps new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris moving 01/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 6:11pm]
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