Raheem Morris faces former Tampa Bay Buccaneers players

Raheem Morris has joined the Redskins staff as secondary coach after spending the previous nine seasons with the Bucs.
Raheem Morris has joined the Redskins staff as secondary coach after spending the previous nine seasons with the Bucs.
Published Aug. 29, 2012

DULLES, Va. — A flat screen television at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant just outside the nation's capital was tuned into the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where Mitt Romney had just been pushed over the top with enough delegates to earn his party's nomination for president.

Raheem Morris still is learning about gridlock in Washington, having needed 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon to travel the last 2 miles from Redskins Park.

But if you want political correctness, you can't always look to Morris.

Smiling widely, the Redskins defensive backs coach began a short trip down Memory Lane by telling how he got his comeuppance. On the day in March the Bucs committed $140.5 million to three high-profile free agents, Morris said he shot a text to general manager Mark Dominik.

"I gave him some nice choice words," Morris said. "But he was great about it. He laughed. He said he knew he was going to get this phone message."

It has been nearly eight months since Morris, 36, was fired after three seasons as the Bucs coach, and much has changed. For the first time, he is wearing the colors of another NFL team, having spent more than nine years with Tampa Bay.

In 2009 the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, gutted the team of veterans and made Morris the youngest head coach in the league because of his personality and feel for young players.

He went 3-13 then 10-6, and started 4-2 before the wheels came off in 2011, losing his last 10 while coordinating the worst defense in club history.

But when the Bucs, who made punter Michael Koenen their only high-priced free agent before Morris' final season, signed Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, Saints guard Carl Nicks and Lions cornerback Eric Wright, he was bemused but not bitter.

"They gave them to those coaches and let those guys have an opportunity to go out there and do it," Morris said. "I've got no ill will toward anybody for not signing a free agent or signing one. It's a timing thing. I wasn't my time. We didn't go out and get the free agents. We wanted to build through the draft."

Under coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins have gotten younger in each of his two seasons. But they continue to sprinkle in veterans such defensive end Adam Carricker and linebacker London Fletcher.

"It's something you definitely see the value in," Morris said. "I always did. It's something you would definitely like to change if you had the opportunity to do it again."

This has been a good week for Morris. In preparing for tonight's preseason finale against Tampa Bay at FedEx Field, he has spent lots of time watching tape of his former players.

"I don't think there will be any real emotional thing. But a lot of those guys are my guys and it's hard to wish ill will towards them," Morris said. "I had a great experience in Tampa.

"You don't care if they go 15-1 as long as that one is the fourth week of the season."

For the record, Morris says, he likes Bucs coach Greg Schiano and believes he will succeed.

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When the Glazers hired Schiano, they talked about his organizational skills, attention to detail and discipline. Meanwhile, on his way out, Morris was portrayed as the guy who let players take advantage of him.

"We were getting fitted for coach of the year rings (in 2010)," Morris said. "A year later, we weren't disciplined enough."

During their 10-game losing streak, Bucs players were accused of quitting on Morris.

"It's really hard for me to say that looking at the tape and watching them," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you everybody gave you their everything and their all. I don't know. But I can certainly tell you a bunch of guys who did play hard, a bunch of guys who did play well.

"Those guys know what I did for them. I don't have to brag about it or beat on my chest."

Because Morris grew up in their organization, starting as a quality control assistant at 26, the Bucs knew him as the affable young coach. There was no opportunity to put a different stamp on a team unfamiliar with his style, the way Mike Tomlin did with the Steelers.

Unlike Schiano, Morris never had a digital clock in the locker room as a tangible reminder for players not to waste time. He says he never looked at the exhaustive hours of coaching as something to be calculated.

"You can always work harder," Morris said. "It's my life. It's what I did every single day. Do I second-guess what I did? Maybe some of the decisions, but not the work ethic.

"I won't have a clock ever. That's not my deal. It's not a job for me. It's a career, it's a thing you love to do. I'm a little shocked they pay us for this. I enjoy what I do way too much to count it."