You knew change was coming.
After witnessing the team complete a ten-game losing streak, the Bucs’ front office fired Raheem Morris on Monday morning. Given the utter lack of discipline, accountability, and intensity shown on the field this year, that decision was as surprising as watching a Buccaneer defender whiff after trying to tackle Julio Jones in the open field. Even Morris smiled and admitted Friday that his team lacked the intensity in practice it had earlier in the year.
It’s ok, coach. You didn’t even need to tell us. When the worst defense, statistically, in team history shows up on your watch, we know there’s no intensity. Just to add insult to injury, the Falcons’ first half onslaught Sunday in their 45-24 spanking gave the 2011 Buccaneer defense the dubious distinction of allowing the most points in a season in team history – 494 points.
The entire coaching staff was even given their collective walking papers. Established and respected guys like offensive line coach Pat Morris. An accomplished former player like Keith Millard. A rising star like defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake. Gone. All of them. It’s currently unknown if any will ultimately be brought back under whatever new head coach there is, but they are no longer employed by the Bucs at the moment.
That’s what happens when a team waives bye-bye to discipline and competitiveness for two-plus months. Widespread, sweeping changes ensue. We wondered what kind of consequences there would be after seeing the typically-terrible Blaine Gabbert look like Mark Brunell in his prime, or Cam Newton look like the man of steel as he turned Raymond James Stadium into his personal phone booth. Rookie quarterbacks or veterans, it didn’t matter. The story had the same hideous, double-digit-deficit ending.
The big question remaining (well, besides who will be the new head coach) is: which of the players deserve to keep their jobs in 2012? Yes, despite questions regarding control by Morris over his players, Mark Dominik’s draft selections and free agency moves (or lack thereof), and the team’s low payroll, the players still had the ability to avoid this nightmarish ending to the season.
That’s right. Guys false starting and jumping offsides. Defensive lineman out of their gaps. Linebackers missing fits. Safeties taking bad angles and allowing long touchdowns. Wide receivers unable to beat press man coverage. A running back who bobbled more balls than a lotto machine. A franchise quarterback who locked eyes with his receivers like they were a pack of Buccaneer cheerleaders cavorting in the surf, and one who more than tripled his interception total from 2010.
Perhaps most damning was watching players fail to give maximum effort against San Francisco, Houston, and Jacksonville, just to name a few instances. As paid professionals, that can never happen, and you can bet your bottom dollar that won’t be lost on the front office when it comes to evaluating which players deserve to be here next year.
Although franchise and/or big-contract players like Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, and Kellen Winslow will certainly be safe for next season, many of the rest of the players should be worried about what they put on film this year, because Dominik and the Glazers have just shown today that they are not afraid of making widespread changes and taking a step back in the short term for the sake of taking a bigger step forward in the long term.