Friday, December 26, 2008

Raheem Morris takes over as Bucs Defensive Coordinator

By JC De La Torre

The Monte Kiffin era is officially over. Tampa Bay has named defensive backs coach Raheem Morris as Defensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Pewter Report reported first on Christmas Day. The move solidifies the future of the Buccaneers defense while Kiffin joins his son at the University of Tennessee.

Morris is well liked by the players, energetic and has been schooled for many years under Kiffin. Morris was with the Bucs from '02 to '05 before leaving to become the Defensive Coordinator at Kansas State. That Kansas State team led the Big 12 in sacks and was one of the catalyst's behind K-State's first bowl appearance since 2003 and an upset of #4 Texas.

Morris was expected to be a sought after commodity for defensive coordinator around the league, viewed in the same light as current Steelers head man Mike Tomlin. Morris could still even be considered for some head coaching vacancies in the NFL, although that opportunity may still be a couple years off.

Buccaneers defensive players were happy with the news of Raheem's promotion.

"That's great. He deserves it," cornerback Ronde Barber told the St. Petersburg Times, "He's put in a lot of good work. His time is now. Good for him; it's a perfect opportunity for him. It's almost a natural opportunity. I look forward to working with him. I think everybody does."

"He's a young coach with a lot of energy and we can relate to that," safety Tanard Jackson said to the Tampa Tribune, "He does some of the same things we do. At the same time, he knows how to separate the business side from the personal side."

"Personally, yes, that would be a great big deal to me because me and Coach Raheem, we talk almost every day," Potential free agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon told the Times regarding whether this would have an impact on his decision to return to Tampa Bay.

"It made things a lot smoother," Tanard Jackson told the Times, "Everyone in this locker room knows Raheem and what he's capable of. The trust has always been there. I'm not going to say it was expected, but guys knew he was going to be the next D-coordinator, and everybody is going to respond well to that."

Morris, as one would expect, was generally excited about the promotion, "I'm just trying to beat Oakland right now, but I am pretty excited about this," Morris told the Tribune, "It's a great accomplishment and I'm proud they're giving me the keys to drive this defense. It's awesome."

My take on this? While there may have been more experienced candidates, you have to believe that Raheem Morris is ready to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL. One of the greatest fears for the organization this season was losing Raheem in the off-season. Under Morris, the Bucs secondary is 5th in the NFL in pass defense and 4th in interceptions and his return to the Bucs defense has helped return Tampa Bay to a Top 10 defensive unit.

Hopefully, the naming of Morris will ease the players minds about next season and they can return to the play that got them as high as #4 in total defense at one point this season (they've fallen to #9 since their defensive slump). Morris should bring a new energy and new ideas on how to attack an offense. While losing Monte is a tough blow for the Bucs organization, Kiffin wasn't going to be around forever. Morris seems to be ready to step in and take over. Hopefully, it will be for awhile.

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