Morris Goes From Penthouse To Basement

A long time ago, members of the media couldn't wait to anoint Raheem Morris as the next great NFL coach. Now, he's fighting for his career, and his supporters have vanished. So much for becoming the next Bill Belichick. Morris reflects on childhood memories of the Cowboys as his career is on the brink.

Morris trying to reverse Bucs backward trend

   Dallas coach Jason Garrett got a vote of confidence from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week. Beleaguered Bucs coach Raheem Morris has heard crickets from his owners and general manager Mark Dominik.

   It means Saturday night's Bucs-Cowboys game on NFL Network looms large for both head coaches.

   The Cowboys (7-6) are coming off back-to-back losses in which Dan Bailey missed field goals after being iced by timeouts - including once by Garrett two weeks ago.

   Tampa Bay (4-9) has lost seven straight games after starting the season 4-2 and is playing for the coaching future of Morris.

   What does the vote of confidence that was not forthcoming to Morris mean to Garrett?

   "There's no question, anytime the owner says something positive, that's a good thing," Garrett said. "But again, we know what the challenges are and we've got to keep putting our best foot forward."

   The Cowboys still are in the playoff hunt, and even coming off an emotional loss to the New York Giants Sunday night, they should have no trouble handling the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.

   Tampa Bay can only play the role of spoiler and hope that they can produce at least a win or two to save the job of the popular Morris, if that's even possible at this point.

   Everything has gone wrong for the Bucs since their trip to London to play the Chicago Bears Oct. 23. Injuries have played a role, but not the biggest one. Youth has been used as an excuse along with a tougher schedule.

   But after going 10-6 and finishing second in coach of the year balloting to the Patriots' Bill Belichick, Morris is on the hottest seat probably left in the NFL. Certainly, it's warmer than Garrett's.

   A lack of discipline has been a problem for Morris' team, which is third in the NFL in penalties. Turnovers have also killed them. A year ago, the Bucs were a plus-9 in turnover ratio. This season they are ranked 28th at minus-10 and had seven turnovers last week in a stunning 41-14 loss at Jacksonville.

   Quarterback Josh Freeman also has taken a big step backward. He leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and has battled through thumb and shoulder problems on his right throwing arm.

   The Bucs have a confidence problem and playing the Cowboys isn't going to help. The game is a sellout because of the legions of Dallas fans expected to fill RJS. Meanwhile, Garrett, who served as the Bucs' No. 4 quarterback in 2004, has to prove his team can close out games.

   "You look at a full NFL season," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "You're going to go through adversity and you're going to go through some great times. You've just got to keep your head down and keep going. At the end of the day, every game comes up quick.

   "You can't look back. You take what you can to learn so it doesn't happen again, but you keep going forward. You don't look up until the end of the regular season and see where you're at."

    Garrett is quick to point out the Cowboys have won their share of close games over the past two seasons.

   "We've had a number of close games this year, really dating back to last year," Garrett said. "We've won a lot of those close games. We've won on last-second field goals, we've won in overtime and the biggest thing we have to do is try to do that on a real consistent basis. The last couple weeks, the game has gone against us. At the end of the game, we're in a pretty decent position to win the game and we've just got to find ways to finish, as an offense, as a defense and in the kicking game. It really involves everybody. It involves coaches, players and we've got to keep working."

   Morris has to hope his young football team, which rides the roller-coaster of emotions, will be excited to play at night on national television against a storied franchise like the Cowboys. Even Morris admits to having grown up a Cowboys fan in New Jersey.

   "I think it was my dad," Morris said. "Peer pressure. He was a Cowboys fan growing up. He loved (Roger) Stabauch, he loved Drew Pearson, he was a Bullet Bob Hayes guy. Growing up with my pops, he kind of flipped me right into a Danny White jersey, we became Drew Pearson out playing street football with every kid. One of my better friends was a Cowboys fan, so we'd walk around, we'd talk trash. Some of my friends liked the Giants and a couple of my friends liked the Redskins. We had the NFC East pretty locked up."

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