The case for and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers firing coach Raheem Morris

Should the Bucs make coach Raheem Morris walk the plank?

A decision on Morris' future likely will be made by Tuesday — no later than Wednesday — when the Glazer family, which owns the team, performs an autopsy on the season.

"I know Coach Morris has thick skin and has dealt with it well,'' center Jeff Faine said of the scrutiny. "But it's one of those things where the finger is going to be pointed at you. It's one of those things you have to deal with.

"I'm still in Coach Morris' corner. I think he's going to continue to develop into a great head coach. He's gotten better, better and better since he's been here. I hope he continues to get an opportunity.''

Let's look at why the Glazers should listen to cries for Morris' job and the reasons they shouldn't.

Fire Morris

Nine straight losses (the Race to 10 concludes today at Atlanta), the past four by an average of 23.5 points, is probably why Morris will be asked by the Bucs to turn in his whistle.

There's no shame in losing games with the youngest team in the league. But you can't go down in flames like kindling wood. The word "noncompetitive" will be tossed around in the next few days.

Three times, Morris questioned his players' effort. Almost every week, he said they did not play smart. As the third-most penalized team in the league, it's fair to question the discipline of the players.

Tampa Bay turned the ball over 28 times during the losing streak. The Bucs were poor in the basic fundamentals such as tackling and protecting the football. The defense likely will go down as the worst in franchise history, last in the league in points allowed and sacks.

When you don't make the playoffs for three straight seasons and, record aside, play worse in the third year of the rebuilding project than your first, it might be time to go.

The Glazers also have to protect their brand. The season-ticket base is somewhere south of about 40,000. Only two games at Raymond James Stadium over the past two years sold out, and both were nationally televised affairs against what looked like marquee teams (Colts, Cowboys) when tickets went on sale.

Under this scenario, the Bucs will need to seek an experienced NFL coach, preferably with a Super Bowl ring.

Remember, the Glazers are big-game hunters. They went after Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier before settling on Tony Dungy in 1996. They had a deal with Bill Parcells before he backed out and forced them to make a trade for Jon Gruden in 2002.

The Bucs can't take a chance with another first-time coach. Because former Steelers coach Bill Cowher says he's not interested in coaching, the list begins with former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who will have offers from San Diego, Miami and others.

Keep Morris

The Bucs' structural plan to build almost exclusively through the draft was flawed, and the result is not entirely on Morris.

Not signing a veteran linebacker — Barrett Ruud or someone else — to mentor rookie Mason Foster was a mistake. It was also wrong to believe Kregg Lumpkin could take over as the third-down back. Not having some real veteran depth on the defensive line behind tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price was foolish.

Morris isn't in charge of personnel, and he never complained about the hand he was dealt.

Yes, quarterback Josh Freeman took a step backward this season. How could he not with those weapons and one of the slowest attacks in the NFL?

Of course, if the Bucs decide to keep Morris, they will probably insist on hiring two new coordinators. Morris failed as a defensive play-caller, and there might be too much on his plate.

Furthermore, the Glazers might not want to spend $6 million to $8 million on an established coach who, invariably, will insist they spend another $50 million on free agents.

It doesn't really fit with the business plan, anyway. Individual teams aren't required to spend a minimum of 99 percent of the salary cap on player costs until 2013.

Morris was actually just ahead of schedule when he won 16 of 22 games before the collapse began 11 weeks ago.

Some believe dismissing Morris would be like blaming the iceberg for the sinking of the Titanic.

The case for and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers firing coach Raheem Morris 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 6:44pm]

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