Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season rests with Raheem Morris

Ronde Barber, left, says of Raheem Morris: “When he has fire in his eyes, we have fire in our eyes. … We love the guy.’’


Ronde Barber, left, says of Raheem Morris: “When he has fire in his eyes, we have fire in our eyes. … We love the guy.’’


You say you want to see more speed? Look at Raheem Morris sprint across a football field to toss a few final words into the face of an official.

You say you want to see more fire in the face of a stubborn opponent? Check out the sound and fury of Morris, his face contorted in rage as he argues against a botched pass-interference call.

You say you want higher expectations, deeper passion and greater intensity? As Morris continued to argue his way from the field to the tunnel at halftime, he seemed to be your man.

Even now, even as his Bucs enter the December portion of the schedule, Morris remains the most essential Buccaneer of them all. More than any other, he is the reason the Bucs have come so far. More than any other, he is responsible for seeing they go further.

That's why it was a good thing to see Morris at the half, still fighting for his team, still jawing, still combative. After all, it was Morris who believed when everyone else doubted his team, and now that the doubts are about to rise again, it is up to Morris to stamp them down again.

Who else is going to do it?

The season is in Morris' hands now. It doesn't matter if you blame him for Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Ravens or if you praised the seven victories that came before it. It doesn't matter if you think he has been too bold in his interviews or was too conservative in his approach against Baltimore. It doesn't matter that his team has overachieved or that the Ravens spent much of the day pointing out all the places his team still has to improve.

It is December, the month where the best coaches make the most difference.

With five games to go, it is fair to suggest the season is in Morris' hands.

That's the job description for all NFL coaches, of course. But in Tampa Bay, where Morris has made so much of an impact this season, it seems particularly important. From here, Morris has to clean up the penalties, and the sloppiness on special teams, and the sputtering defense. He is in charge of getting Josh Freeman back in synch, and of cleaning up the botched chances and the blown coverages and the bad scoreboard.

This is Morris' team, after all, and December will define how this season is remembered.

"We play like he coaches," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "The personality of this team and the pulse of this team are a reflection of him. When he has fire in his eyes, we have fire in our eyes. That's just the way this works. We love the guy.

"Winning in December is what good coaches do. As he goes as a leader, we're going to go as a team. I expect the very best out of him. And he expects it out of us."

As for everyone else, well, it will be easy to doubt today. Losing has that effect on people. It's easy to note that the Bucs' victories have come against seven teams with a combined 18-46 record, and the losses have come against teams with a combined record of 33-11. As such, it's easy to wonder how the Bucs will fare, even if they make it to the playoffs.

It's up to Morris and his team to dispel that kind of talk, too. If the Bucs want to make the playoffs, it seems reasonable to assume a victory this week against Atlanta — or later against New Orleans — will be required. Certainly, if the Bucs make it that far, they'll have to beat winning teams to keep playing.

"We just have to get better," Morris said. "We're playing meaningful games. We're a young football team. Never lose sight of that, guys. We've got a young Buc team that's hungry, that's determined, that's playing their hearts out for their city."

All of that is true enough. It was established some time ago that the Bucs are miles ahead of the 3-13 team of a year ago. As the season enters its stretch drive, however, it's easy to want more. Certainly, Morris seems to want more himself.

"I only define seasons by one thing," Morris said. "There's going to be 31 unhappy teams, and if we're not in Dallas playing for the 'ship (the Super Bowl), then we're going to be unhappy. Period."

In other words, there is no reason to modulate your expectations. You might as well expect the Bucs to win every time out.

Even Sunday, Morris kept correcting those who asked about moral victories and litmus tests. He simply talked about winning and losing.

"You guys hold these teams to higher standards than we do," Morris said. "We respect all teams, but our job is to go beat them.

"We have to go back to the lab. We've got to find a way to be better on offense, better on defense, better on special teams and win football games. Like this. There are no moral victories. They're the Ravens, and they're powerhouses and you guys want to give them credit for being powerhouses. But we've got to find ways to win. We want to be the best and that's all we're looking for."

Fair enough. The offense has to be more efficient, even against the Ravens. The defense has to be more complete, even on the road. The result has to be better, no matter what the Ravens' record is. The team has to win enough games, no matter the opponents, to get to the playoffs and beyond.

On this Sunday, the Bucs weren't good enough.

Next Sunday, it will be up to Morris to make sure they are.

Tough going against winning teams

Tampa Bay's loss to the Ravens on Sunday kept them winless against teams with a .500 record or better. The best team the Bucs have beaten is the 5-6 Rams:


Opponent Score Record

Cleveland 17-14 4-7

Carolina 20-7 1-10

Cincinnati 24-21 2-9

St. Louis 18-17 5-6

Arizona 38-35 3-7*

Carolina 31-16 ---

San Francisco 21-0 3-7*

Total 169-110 18-46

* Play tonight


Pittsburgh 38-13 8-3

New Orleans 31-6 8-3

Atlanta 27-21 9-2

Baltimore 17-10 8-3

Total 113-50 33-11

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season rests with Raheem Morris 11/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 29, 2010 8:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start


    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'


    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.