On Super Bowl Sunday two years ago Dan Sileo waved a blank piece of paper at Raheem Morris insinuating the fact that Raheem Morris had nothing on his resume, thus having to prove himself after Tampa ownership made the controversial decision to hire the young defensive backs coach who spent his career under the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas State Jayhawks, Cornell Big Red, and Hofstra Pride never being a head coach before.
Morris went through a tumultuous first season in 2009 with Tampa Bay going 3-13 along with facing extreme scrutiny for starting rookie quarterback, Josh Freeman, for the last 10 games of the season. Tampa Bay needed an overhaul on their aging defense and they were facing a long road of rebuilding. In this modern day NFL during the salary cap era head coaches are expected to win now, whether it’s a rebuilding process or not, progress must be shown. Morris knew that going into this season. If you told most football fans that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would win 10 games in the NFC South, where the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints are and even the young upstart Atlanta Falcons with Matt Ryan, I’d like to think most people outside of Tampa would have thought that was some kind of funny joke. Raheem Morris proved this notion to be a reality by getting his young players to believe in his system and franchise quarterback, Josh Freeman, showed he may be the real deal down in Tampa. Morris has the media believing now doesn’t he?
Raheem Morris joined WDAE in Tampa with Dan Sileo to discuss proving the media wrong and re-evaluating the mistakes made during the 3-13 season in 2009, Josh Freeman’s sophomore emergence, his initial thoughts of beating New Orleans Sunday and getting to the goal of 10 wins, on the potential of getting to 12-4 minus a few tough late game loses, on a potential contract extension from the Bucs, and who he reaches out to during the season for advice.
On proving the media wrong and re-evaluating the mistakes made during the 3-13 season in 2009?
“Well you know you gotta hold everyone accountable including yourself. I pride myself on holding myself accountable for whatever mistakes we might have made the first time as well. You are going to make mistakes, this is a business and that’s what happens. You gotta go out and correct those mistakes. In the NFL you have to do it fast. We wanted to do that. We made the decision a year ago to try to win with the longevity of winning. We went out and got a quarterback. We knew that would be the first step and first process of going out there and doing it. Certainly we believe that Josh Freeman is a franchise guy. It was hard. It wasn’t a popular decision at first. Nobody really bought in, but now everyone seems to be buying in and it’s showing on the field man. It’s been great.”
On Josh Freeman’s sophomore emergence this season and making everyone better on the offense by spreading the ball around and throwing touchdown to 18-19 different players?
“You know you got to look at the 4th quarter in how you break up the season in comparison with Mr.Brady. He (Josh Freeman) is certainly up there with him and those are things we compare Freeman to. He said that when he first got into the league that everyone wanted to compare him to Stafford (Matt) and Sanchez (Mark). He said he wanted to be in the likes of Peyton (Manning) and Tom Brady and to go out there and do those things. He has the 9th best touchdown-interception ratio in NFL history, not playing now, in the history of the game! That is phenomenal for a young man and that is exactly what we hoped he would become.”
On his initial thoughts as time was ticking down during last week’s victory over New Orleans and the #1 goal of 10 wins being reached?
“Well I knew it was the waiting game, but let me explain this Dan too, the race to 10 is not a goal of getting to 10 wins. The race to 10 is to try to get there first. We failed at that goal. If you get to 10 wins first you really control your own destiny, you control where you’re going to be able to play, how you’re going to be able to play, what happens in that last half of the season, and all those things. If you can get to 10 wins before everyone else, alla the New England Patriots, now you’re playing down the stretch and your playing for different things, you’re playing for home field advantage, you’re playing for people having to come through Foxboro like they are right now. Those are the things we want to go to with this young football team. I believe we can get there. If you look at our game, a field goal here, a short yardage play here, finishing a game in a 2-minute on defense here, we’re sitting here with 13 wins. We’re at the spot where we control our own destiny and we control going through Tampa. This is kind of an exciting place. You’re going crazy on the radio. Everybody is excited about it and the entertainment business lives. That’s where we want to go.”
On potential of being 12-4 and the #1 seed in the NFC if the Bucs had gotten the 1-yard at Atlanta and the win at Detroit?
“I got a lot of crap to say that, but I’m telling you now, I meant it. I felt it. It is a belief. It’s who our young guys are. When you send your children out in the world and you tell them to go out and be the very best you mean it. I meant that to these guys. There’s no reason why they couldn’t go out and be the best. We’re a half-yard away from Atlanta, we’re two minutes away from Atlanta, we lost to Detroit in the overtime. We correct some of those things next year and we continue to go at the rate we’re going who knows. Whatever can happen it happens.”
On the Bucs coming to him regarding a potential contract extension after the season ended?
“I’m a football coach man and all that stuff is family business. What happens with myself and my ownership I don’t worry about those things. I want to be like Bill Belichick. I’ve never heard Belichick being asked about his contract situation or what’s going on with it. It’s just kind of assumed. I want that to happen here for our players, for myself and our coaching staff. For me that’s a mentally weak approach when you’re sitting around thinking about you’re contract. I’ve never been that way. I’ve always done my job to the best of my ability and it’s paid off so far. I just want to keep that mentality.”
On who he reaches out to during the season for guidance?
“You’re going to be shocked man, we stay in touch with each other, Derrick Brooks is one of my biggest supporters. He calls me behind the scenes once a week. We talk about things, we talk about the team, we talk about developments. It’s kind of ironic. Derrick is still a part of this family. He still helps me out tremendously through texts, conversations on the phone, whatever we need, whether it’s fixing about the defense or the style of play. Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, phenomenal advice, phenomenal, when he talks to me about plans and how you’re going to attack the media and the message and all the things he gives his teams through examples. It’s been unbelievable. Mike Tomlin. Another guy we talk every Monday. We go kind of go across every situation that may happen, what’s going on with us and we dream about meeting in Dallas this year. Unfortunately won’t happen. I got a nice base of people who I call. I got a nice of people who I reach out to and not to necessarily be like “oh whoa is me,” but it’s just about mental toughness. It’s about us developing what we want to be and how we want to do it.”