1. Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fire head coach Raheem Morris

General manager Mark Dominik says he will give up some power on personnel decisions if it means hiring the right coach. The Bucs are flexible about requiring head-coaching experience.
Published Jan. 3, 2012

TAMPA — A 10-game losing streak, the worst defense in team history and an offense that watched the ball drop more times than Dick Clark on New Year's Eve ultimately cost Bucs coach Raheem Morris and his entire staff their jobs Monday.

But it was the unexpected success with the youngest team in the NFL last season, and the expectations that resulted, that may have been Morris' undoing.

Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer and general manager Mark Dominik each admitted in a joint news conference Monday they should have added a few more veterans through free agency after the team went 10-6 in 2010.

"If you look back, you can say, 'Gee, maybe we should've added some more veterans,' " Glazer said. "… But then you can also look back and say well, we were 10-6, a young team that was going in the right direction. Do you want to go too far in that direction?

"In these situations it is not just one person. Everyone has to take some responsibility for the results of the season, whether it is the owners, general manager, players — the entire organization. You cannot hide from your part in the situation."

While vowing to spend "whatever it takes to win," Glazer said Dominik will spearhead a coaching search, starting immediately.

Believed to be atop of the Bucs wish list — and that of the Rams and Dolphins and perhaps other teams looking for a head coach — is former Titans coach Jeff Fisher.

But Glazer said the process would be thorough and indicated the team would consider candidates with no NFL head coaching experience. The hot names in that category include Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.

"We're not going to pigeonhole exactly what we're looking for here," Glazer said. "We're going to interview a lot of different candidates, talk to a lot of different people."

Morris, 35, was fired one day after a 45-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in which the Bucs trailed 42-0 in the first half. The lopsided losses became commonplace for the Bucs, who dropped their final five games by an average of 23 points. Meanwhile, the offense committed 40 turnovers.

Morris was informed of his dismissal at 11:59 a.m. in a meeting with Bucs co-chairmen Bryan, Joel and Ed Glazer. He said he knew when he walked into their office he would not be leaving as head coach.

"It was the way we finished the season," Morris said, "the 10-game losing streak. You don't have that and survive in this league and we all know that. It is what it is, you have to be ready to deal.

"They blew it up. I have nothing bad to say about the Glazers, Mark (Dominik). The Glazers gave me a great opportunity and we almost pulled it off."

Morris went 17-31 in his three seasons as head coach. The Bucs went from 3-13 his rookie year to 10-6 last season, narrowly missing the playoffs.

But after a 4-2 start this season, including wins over NFC South rivals Atlanta and New Orleans, the Bucs fell into a tailspin that Morris and his staff could not stop.

Dominik avoided the pink slips handed to the entire coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Greg Olson and defensive line coach Keith Millard. It's not clear how much it will cost to pay off all those contracts.

"I do take responsibility for what happened on this football team as well," Dominik said. "Obviously as the general manager, my job is to help acquire talent and provide talent, draft players and get us to a competitive level. Obviously after 10-6, we all felt like the team was going in the right direction."

Complicating free agency, according to Dominik, was the inability to interview players because of the NFL lockout.

"It wasn't as good a time as you could have with free agency in terms of bringing guys into this building because of the limited amount of time," Dominik said. "But a lot of it was that we were 10-6 and we were coming off a good football season. We had a lot of young guys who were ascending and we banked on that. I banked on that too."

Before they parted ways last January, Fisher, 53, was the NFL's longest tenured coach, spending nearly 17 seasons with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans organization. Fisher went 142-120 (.542), winning four division titles and appearing in the playoffs six times over that span. He's 5-6 in the playoffs, with a Super Bowl trip in the 1999 season, which the Titans lost to the Rams, 23-16.

Tampa Bay will have plenty of competition for Fisher, who will visit the Rams and Dolphins. Fisher has always worked with a general manager. But Dominik said he would not have any problem relinquishing some power on personnel decisions if it allowed the Bucs to hire the best coach.

"I think the most important thing we're going to do here is hire the best football coach for this football team regardless of what the responsibilities are or to become," Dominik said.

"At the end of the day, you have to have a working relationship with your head coach as a general manager. Regardless of who has what powers where, our goal is to find the best head coach for this football team. It doesn't matter what the delegation of authority is for that head coach or for me."


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