TAMPA — Raheem Morris was already making plans for the offseason Monday, looking forward to the draft and planning to build around quarterback Josh Freeman.
"I've got a feeling that Year 2 will be a lot less dramatic for me," Morris said at his news conference.
For Morris, the suspense ended when he was summoned to the Glazers' office later in the afternoon and learned he would return for the 2010 season.
"We are committed to the plan that we began 12 months ago with Coach Morris, and we look forward to building on the pieces that were put in place this season," vice president Joel Glazer said in a statement released Monday night.
Morris, 33, had the deck stacked against him when he was named head coach to replace Jon Gruden, who was fired Jan. 16.
Morris had never been a head coach at any level and had just been named defensive coordinator on Christmas Eve to replace Monte Kiffin.
He was paired with first-year general manager Mark Dominik, who helped Morris hire a coaching staff.
That was where the first cracks developed. The Bucs fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the regular-season opener. Greg Olson, the quarterbacks coach at the time, took over play-calling duties and got a contract extension.
And 10 weeks into the season, with the defense ranked at or near the bottom of every category and allowing 29 points a game, Morris took over defensive play-calling duties from coordinator Jim Bates.
"I know it was a tough year," Morris said. "I know it wasn't what everyone wanted it to be, but they are a tough team. I know that when I turn on my tape of my team and I watch them play down the stretch, you see nothing but hard, tough play. You see those guys never quit. Not just one individual player but all of them."
Any other suspense that might have existed was reduced when a report surfaced that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who was rumored to have been a candidate had the Bucs fired Morris, won't return to coaching in 2010.
Even before being told for sure that he was staying, Morris was already looking forward to 2010.
And Morris listed the development of Freeman as the team's top priority.
"It starts with him," Morris said. "Then after that the draft and building around him, our team and what we are going to be. You have to say that No. 5 is the biggest priority, making sure everything works around him, because when it works around him, we were able to be successful at the end of the season there."
Freeman, 3-6 as a starter, set a club rookie record with 10 touchdown passes but had 18 interceptions and a 59.9 passer rating. He said he embraced the responsibility of being the Bucs' franchise quarterback.
"Obviously, it is a responsibility, but I try to look at it as a blessing," Freeman said. "I have a head coach who has confidence in me, and he's willing to invest in me to become a better player and be better next year and win more games."