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Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Raheem Morris to interview with Denver Broncos

TAMPA — Raheem Morris might not be the Bucs' defensive coordinator next season after all.

The Broncos have asked permission to interview Morris for their head coaching job.

Morris, 32, will interview with owner Pat Bowlen on Monday in Denver. The Broncos, who fired Mike Shanahan this week, also have an informal interview with Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Saturday.

Morris was named defensive coordinator for 2009 on Dec. 25, succeeding Monte Kiffin, who is joining son Lane at the University of Tennessee. But Morris is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and is a protege of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Morris was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Even though he signed a two-year contract, NFL rules prohibit teams from blocking assistants from interviewing for a head job.

Morris would seem to be a long shot for the position because he has no head coaching experience at any level.

But Morris is taking a path forged by Tomlin, who was the Bucs' defensive backs coach from 2001-05 and the Vikings' defensive coordinator in 2006 before interviewing with the Steelers.

Most believed Tomlin was brought to Pittsburgh to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate. But Tomlin, 34 at the time, beat out in-house candidates Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.

The success of first-year coaches John Harbaugh at Baltimore and Mike Smith at Atlanta could help Morris. But he faces a tough field that includes Spagnuolo, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and, possibly, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

Morris has impressed coaches everywhere he has worked, including Kiffin, who endorsed him for defensive coordinator.

"Raheem is a very enthusiastic person, a very likeable person and will be good with the press," Kiffin said. "But that's not why he got the job. There are coaches like that, but they can't really coordinate. But Raheem, he's ready. He deserves it. He's ready, and he can do it."

Morris joined the Bucs in 2002 as a quality control assistant. He was defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006 but returned to coach the Bucs' defensive backs in 2007.

If the Bucs lose Morris, it would be a big blow. Rod Marinelli, a former Bucs assistant who was fired as Lions coach, is expected to join the staff of Bears coach Lovie Smith, another former Bucs assistant.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Raheem Morris to interview with Denver Broncos 01/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 2:58pm]

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