After a 2008 season that saw Tampa Bay go 9-7, the Buccaneers decided to start a drastic rebuilding project last year under rookie head coach Raheem Morris. Tampa is probably a couple of years away from actually competing in the rugged NFC South, but it looks as if they are headed in the right direction with a good, young core group of players. Last year they were able to find a guy that they believe can be their quarterback of the future in Josh Freeman in the first round. This year, they turned their attention to getting Freeman a go-to wide receiver and beefing up the defensive side of the ball. The Bucs used their first two picks of the draft to add two new members to their defensive front in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. This duo should make for a great one-two punch leading the charge for the resurgence of the Bucs defense. Then they made a trade to get back into the second round to get Freeman his go-to receiver potentially for the next 10-12 years in Arrelious Benn. Benn wasn’t as productive as teams would’ve liked but a lot of that had to do with his poor quarterback play at Illinois. Benn is dangerous after the catch and he has great size for the position, which should give the young quarterback a big target over the middle of the field and in the red zone. The expectations shouldn’t be too high in Tampa Bay for 2010, but that doesn’t mean the future doesn’t look bright.
Raheem Morris joined WDAE in Tampa with the Big Dog, Steve Duemig to talk about what kinds of players the Bucs were looking for in the draft, how many guys he thinks can start for the team in 2010, and what he learned from last year’s 3-13 season. Wow, is Morris a fiery guy. After listening to this interview, I wanted to put on the pads and hit someone!
On the kinds of players he was looking to add:
“The thing we like to know about our guys are how many guys are team captains? How many guys were team leaders or had roles in leadership programs? How many guys have military backgrounds as far as their parents? How these guys were raised? Just a lot of things that help you know what a guy is going to be. We use all those scales, our scouts do a great job of researching, and they do a great job of digging up everything they can dig up possible for us to hit the kids with. The biggest part for me at that point isn’t what they’ve done in the past, it’s what they’re doing right now. If they can sit in front of me and tell me the truth, which you know is one of the most important things in this league, and for a kid to come and communicate with you and say ‘hey coach this is what I did wrong, this is what I did right, or this is what I’m doing now, and here’s my plan for the future,’ I can deal with just about anybody. When those guys come to me and they’re able to tell me what’s going on with those guys, that’s what I want to find out from all these players that we have potential to draft, then that’s very important.”
On how many starters he thinks he has from the 2010 draft class:
“I made the bold prediction earlier that we can get four potential starters out of this draft, but we potentially got more. We got nine picks and we’re excited about all nine guys. Then we went out and did some free agent work and we’re able to get excited about those guys. Realistically those top three, four picks, five picks, six pixks, they can all be out there playing substantial roles. If you’re a third down rusher, or a nickel corner, or a punter, you’re a starter. You can say what you want to say. Whether you come out of the tunnel or not and get to run through the cheerleaders, that’s one thing, but when you get those roles defined and what you do, those guy are starters in your eyes and that’s all you care about. When we say starter, we’re talking about having a substantial role on this football team. I’m not gonna limit a guy coming in here like a (Cody) Grimm that he’s not gonna be a starter for us. If he’s a four-phase player on special teams and he’s our third or fourth safety on game day, he’s a starter as well. These roles are important to us and I know they’re important to our community.”
On how much say he has in the decision making process:
“I’m a controversial guy. I try to bring controversy amongst coaches and the scouts. I want disagreement. I’ve said this a million times. I’m not the smartest guy in the world and I don’t want to be. If I was making every decision by myself, we would be in trouble. I want to have people around me who have ideas, who have opinions, and can state them. At the end of the day, myself and Mark Domenik, we’re going to make the final call. I want to at least hear your opinion, I want to at least go through the thought process, I want to at least know what you’re thinking, I want it to be heated, whether we got that player or we didn’t and we’ll find out in four years whether you were right or we were right. So that’s how we work it.”
On what he learned from last year’s season:
“One of the things you learn is that you gotta do it your way. You gotta go out there, you gotta learn from every mistake, you gotta do things, and you can’t look back. You figure it out. Everything you do, every decision you make isn’t going to be the right one. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to feel good and you gotta feel confident with how you did it. That’s how we got better throughout the season. I wanted to start out with the two strong coordinators that had coached in this league before and had success in this league before and that didn’t work. You gotta make decisions and you gotta make the change. It’s hard to make those changes. It’s easy to wait year to year and month to month and just try to figure out what you should do again, but you know what? I decided to do those things. Same thing with players. You gotta figure out that you’re gonna make this team young and build for the future. You goitta be strong willed to go through the young players and we did. Now we got younger players and I’m sitting here like I’m in a college town with a bunch of 20-year olds running around the field and a chance to grow together and be successful. If the thing works out, man we’ll all be here for 12-15 years partying some Super Bowl Championships and everything that we want to do here in Tampa. We’ll all feel good about it. We have a nice core group of guys and now we’re just building to those guys and we’re ready to unite and conquer.”