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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' main voice changes with hiring of new coach Raheem Morris

Tampa — I cannot tell you what Raheem Morris plans to do with the Buccaneers offense. He wouldn't say. And I cannot tell you about his philosophy as the man in charge of Sundays. He did not elaborate.

I cannot give you names, details, hints, suppositions, beliefs or hunches. In his first hours on the job, Morris offered none of the above.

What I can say unequivocally is this:

He is not Jon Gruden.

And for the Glazers, that was enough.

Say this for the family who owns the Buccaneers: They have never pretended to be experts at this game. They do not talk about schemes and they do not question game plans. What they know is money and what they trust is their instincts.

In this case, their instincts told them that their money-making franchise was better off in the hands of a 32-year-old whose smile is better than his resume and whose passion is more impressive than his accomplishments.

"Raheem can relate to today's NFL player," Bucs executive vice president Joel Glazer said. "The game has changed a lot. It's always changing. In the NFL, we believe, if you don't adapt to those changes, you can't compete."

This seems to be the crux of what went on at One Buc Place this weekend. Quibble, if you want, about all the presnap shifts and the number of 3-yard passes in Gruden's playbook. Moan about the quarterbacks never developed and the run defense that went missing.

In the end, it probably wasn't what Gruden told the team that cost him his job. It might have been that the team had stopped listening to what he had to say.

It's not that Gruden, 45, is out of touch. It might just be that, like Tony Dungy seven years ago, there was a sense the team no longer responded to his message.

"I think change is good," safety Jermaine Phillips said. "Everybody in this locker room knows what Raheem Morris brings to the table. They know who he is as a person. They know he is going to be who he is through good times and bad. Look at the way we finished this year after being 9-3. We did lose some of the enthusiasm, some of that excitement."

Perhaps Morris should thank Mike Tomlin. And Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith, for that matter. The Glazers have seen a number of their former assistant coaches and front-office executives show up in the playoffs with other franchises.

So maybe the thought of losing Morris was too much to bear. Maybe his job interview in Denver was what the Glazers needed to keep another young hot shot from walking out the door.

It certainly wasn't Morris' body of work that tipped the scales in his favor. Heck, Gruden was in his second season as an NFL head coach when Morris was still making $5,000 a year as an assistant to the assistant defensive backs coach at Cornell.

And it wasn't some detailed dossier about what he would do as a head coach, because Morris said he never even interviewed with the Glazers for that position.

Instead, the owners seemed more sold on the person than on the plan.

"Things have changed," running back Warrick Dunn said. "The success of younger head coaches around the league has really opened people's eyes. It's not about being 50 or 60 years old. It's about who has a great football mind and who can relate to players, who can motivate guys. Who can get guys to follow them in the right direction.

"It's a natural reaction (to stop listening) anytime something gets redundant. Or something gets old. You're there, but you're not really there. Raheem? His challenge is not just to motivate guys because he's close to their age and they can relate to him. Guys are going to have to respect him and want to play hard for him."

My bet is Morris will make a good first impression with Bucs fans. He is funny. He is upbeat. He has a hint of humility wrapped around a persona of cocky. So, yes, his personality will buy him some time and some friends.

Of course, all the other stuff will eventually be a factor. His game plans, his practices, his execution under pressure. He can be the nicest guy on the planet, but it isn't going to save his job if the Bucs go 4-12.

Which means, considering all the unknowns with this guy, the Glazers have taken a heck of a risk by firing a Super Bowl-winning coach and giving a four-year contract to a rookie.

"Man, they took a great risk trading away … draft picks to hire Jon Gruden. Risk is involved in everything," Morris said. "The Glazers are not afraid of risks, obviously. And neither am I. I took a risk taking $5,000 for my first coaching job after graduating from college. And my mom looked at me like I was crazy."

That was 10 years ago, when Morris turned down a $35,000 a year job as a high school phys ed teacher for a restricted earning job at Cornell.

Sometimes, you just have to go with your instincts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' main voice changes with hiring of new coach Raheem Morris 01/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 11:01pm]
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