Morris expects second season in TB

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their worst record ever during the Glazer regime this season. Was it enough to get head coach Raheem Morris fired? The Glazer family has the final decision, but Morris and his players believe there won't be a change at the top heading into 2010.

The Glazer family has a decision to make on Bucs coach Raheem Morris.

The Bucs finished 3-13 under Morris following Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It is the worst record for the Bucs since 1991, when Richard Williamson was fired.

Morris' fate has always seemed tangled with the success of rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw two more interceptions Sunday to give him 18 on the season.

"He's got a chance to go into the offseason and know he's our starting quarterback and he's our franchise," Morris said. "Josh Freeman will be judged on next year. So will I."

At least Morris hopes so.

Vice presidents Joel and Bryan Glazer kept with their stance Sunday of not commenting on Morris' status.

There have been reports during the past two weeks that the Glazers contacted former Steelers coach Bill Cowher to gauge his interest. But Cowher told CBS Sunday, "As I've referenced to before, I'm not going to talk about any jobs during the regular season."

The Glazers waited nearly three weeks last season before firing coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

Freeman, 21, set a club rookie record for passing yards (1,857) and touchdown passes (10). But his 3-6 record, 18 interceptions and 59.9 passer rating would indicate he has a lot of work to do.

After the game, Bucs players stood firmly behind their coach and quarterback. Most agree that Freeman has a bright future in the NFL and that certain factors -- the firing of offensive coordinator 10 days before the start of the regular season and a pointless battle between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown in training camp -- conspired against him.

"He's going to draw upon a lot of this," center Jeff Faine said. "This is one of these things you have to experience it to really learn it. You can see it on tape as much as you want to, but if you don't do it, if you don't throw that pick to (Carolina's) Jon Beason in the red zone, you don't learn from it. This experience he had this season is going to be invaluable -- for a lot of guys.

"There isn't going to be a question who the starting quarterback is coming into next season. There isn't going to be us having a quarterback competition between Leftwich and McCown. Hopefully, there's some consistency in the coaching staff so we can carry the playbook over for a season, too."

What went right: Assuming he returns as head coach -- and there's no solid indication otherwise -- Raheem Morris will continue to double as defensive coordinator.

"It is my decision," Morris said. "When I say I like doing it, it means I'm going to go back and look at the stats and look at the production and how helpful it really was. You want to evaluate yourself and look at these last seven games.

"But I've got to be honest. It's a lot of fun. I'm having a ball."

The improvement since Morris took over the playing-calling duties from defensive coordinator Jim Bates is startling. In the first 10 games, Tampa Bay allowed 29.4 points and 378.3 yards per game. In the last six games under Morris, the defense has allowed 17.2 points and 333.8 yards per game.

Morris claims one of the biggest adjustments was returning the Bucs to a one-gap system on the defensive front. But he still has the ability to jump into a one-gap front and play match-up, quarters coverage to mix it up.

"It was a learning experience for me," Morris said. "Do I like calling it? There's no doubt. Do I look back and say should I have called it from the beginning? There's no doubt. Would I have been able to do as much as I do now without that learning experience? I don't know.

"It's been a lot of the same stuff we've done in the past just morphed into it. There's been some things we've been able to add we didn't have before. There's been some things I've been thinking about for years. There have been some things I brought from (Kansas) State."

The double-duty does put a little more pressure on his decision-making as the head coach, but Morris says it isn't anything he can't handle.

What went wrong: The Bucs struggled to find their identity under first-year coach Raheem Morris and first year general manager Mark Dominick.

Ten days before the start of the regular season, they fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski because he couldn't call plays.

They didn't vet Jagodzinski very well. Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson took over and kept some of the verbiage and plays installed by Jags. But the transition was not a smooth one, to say the least.

The zone blocking scheme did not work. And the Bucs wasted time in a meaningless QB battle between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown.

The problem was rookie Josh Freeman got very few reps and did not play much in training camp. That set the offense back and handcuffed Olson.

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