The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have become a respectable NFL franchise and Super Bowl winner on the backs of their last two coaches. Tony Dungy got the Buccaneers out of their permanent place in the NFL basement, while Jon Gruden finished their Super Bowl rise. But Gruden is gone, and the pieces of his era are faded with him. Now, the Buccaneers pin their hopes for a return to the top, and not a return to the basement, on young new coach Raheem Morris.
Hours after Gruden’s surprise firing, Raheem Morris was named as Gruden’s replacement. Morris would take over as Tampa Bay head coach at the young age of 32. The announcement will probably be made official later today.
Raheem Morris becoming a head coach isn’t just surprising because of his age, or the circumstances of Gruden’s firing. Morris has only been a quality control coach, or a position coach, during his time as a member of Gruden’s staff. However, that did not stop the Broncos from showing interest in Morris as well, before the Buccaneers promoted him.
Raheem Morris started out as a mere intern for the Jets in 2001, before Gruden brought him on board as a quality control coach right after taking over the Bucs. Morris got to be part of a Super Bowl winning team right away, just like Gruden. However, Gruden’s position would slip over the next six years while Morris continued to rise.
Morris rose to be a defensive assistant in 2003, then an assistant defensive backs coach the next two years. But Morris left briefly for college football, to be defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006. When Morris was let go shortly thereafter, he returned to the Buccaneers, this time as the head defensive backs coach.
Morris was credited for making the Buccaneers a top ranked defense in 2007, but Tampa Bay ultimately became the first victim of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl run in the playoffs. This year, the Buccaneers looked to do better with a 9-3 start.
Even after the Buccaneers lost their next three, Morris got another break by being promoted to defensive coordinator on Christmas, after Monte Kiffin left to coach for his father at Tennessee. The chance would have gone into effect in 2009.
But another opportunity opened for Morris when the Bucs lost their final game in a upset to the Raiders, costing them a playoff berth and finally costing Gruden his job. Morris then had an interview with the Denver Broncos for their open head coach position. But the Glazer family worked quick to promote Morris for their own, hours after firing Gruden.
With Morris such a young head coach, replacing someone like Gruden, and trying to erase the memories of the Bucs’ recent disappointments, the task ahead will be exceedingly difficult.
SI.com- “Bucs to replace Gruden with Morris” sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/peter_king/01/16/gruden.fired/index.html
The Ledger- “Bucs fire Jon Gruden; Morris To Replace Him” www.theledger.com/article/20090116/NEWS/901160357/0/WIRE13