Before Raheem Morris became head coach, he was given one piece of advice on how to fix the Bucs.
Over the years, the team had become divided, operating as if it had two head coaches — Jon Gruden, who called all the plays and made personnel decisions on offense, and Monte Kiffin, the czar of the defense.
Not surprisingly, the game plans were similarly disjointed.
The person who hammered this home to Morris?
None other than ex-coach Gruden.
"The thing Gruden brought to my attention after I became defensive coordinator is that we had become separate entities," Morris said. "The defense was playing on their own over here, and the offense was playing on their own over there. Special teams were playing on there own over there. It wasn't anybody's fault, just that Gruden had developed so much confidence in what Monte Kiffin and what Rich Bisaccia was doing, we just kind of lost our game plan on game day.
"What he wanted to do was to become a little more team-oriented. … We wanted to develop a plan."
That's one of the reasons why Morris hired a coordinator on each side of the ball, although he clearly was qualified to run the defense.
Most pundits agree that the Bucs, with all the changes, don't have the talent to compete for a playoff spot this season. That remains to be seen. But their biggest edge under Morris might be unity in the locker room, several players said.
"We're closer as a team, just by all the things that went on in the offseason," WR Michael Clayton said. "From releasing those players, the coaching changes, even the firing of our offensive coordinator last week. All of these actions have caused us to jell closer, because at the end of the day, we know our talent.
"A lot of those changes have caused the coaching staff to jell. This last-minute change with the new offensive coordinator (Greg Olson) … I see him talking to (receivers) coach (Richard) Mann and our offensive line coach (Pete Mangurian). They're working together. Before, that was an issue. When (former offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski) was here, that might have been an issue because he was trying to implement his offense. … Everything has really worked out in our favor."
Quote of the week: From the start of training camp, Morris has called out players in meetings and to the media. (Remember: DE Gaines Adams — double-digit sacks or you're a bust.)
Starting today, when the scores and stats count, turnabout apparently is fair play.
"I tell them right from the beginning — we're going to be a family," Morris said. "You don't have to worry about reading it because I'm going to tell you right here in front of the team how I feel. I tell them if you guys want to talk about me, I won't take it personally, either."
All together now: The Bucs think they have upgraded their talent on offense. Starting LG Arron Sears is a big loss (even if Jeremy Zuttah is a promising talent). Adding TE Kellen Winslow is an upgrade. Antonio Bryant and Clayton return as starting wideouts. RB Derrick Ward is coming off a 1,000-yard season, while Warrick Dunn is out of work. And RB Cadillac Williams has shown flashes of his former skills after coming off his second knee surgery.
In preseason games, however, these offensive weapons rarely, if ever, played together.
Williams played in one game and had eight carries for 54 yards. Winslow caught one pass. Clayton caught two and Bryant none.
"I'm interested to see Byron (Leftwich) and Bryant and Clayton and Cadillac and Winslow all on the field at the same time," Bucs GM Mark Dominik said. "We haven't had that dynamic."