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November 22, 2011 @ 12:36 pm
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Who Are These Guys?

Written by Chidi
Ahanotu
Chidi Ahanotu

Chidi
Ahanotu

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Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris didn't trust his defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the high-octane Packers offense, which is why he went for the onside kick in the fourth quarter. Where were the defensive players standing up for themselves and calling out Morris, writes former Bucs DE Chidi Ahanotu.

Tampa Bay’s 35-26 loss at Green Bay was a close fought game but ended in another loss, the fourth straight for the Buccaneers. In what some may look at as a moral victory for the young Bucs, the players and coaches inside the Tampa Bay locker room refused to pat themselves on the back. For a team that is admittedly in a growth stage with focus on maturing the young coaches and young players, I do not see why these Bucs would not pat themselves on the back for fighting toe-to-toe on the road in below freezing conditions with the undefeated, defending world champion Packers.

For every young team there comes a moment, a play, or a game such as this one that symbolizes the turning point and establishes exactly who they are and forging a true identity. When I was a young Buc, that turning point came in a win against the mighty San Francisco 49ers in 1997 at home at Raymond James Stadium. It was a moment that we realized that yes, we can play with the best – and win.

Albeit that turning point came from a game we won, these young Bucs can still take from the loss against the Packers and realize the same thing; that they can play with the best – and win.

Well, who are these guys? What will they develop into? At what point will be their turning point? This group of young Bucs is exciting to watch develop and mature. If not for some costly coaching decisions and some game-changing penalties that either took the momentum away from the Bucs or kept crucial drives alive for the Packers, these young Bucs may have shocked the world and gave the Packers their first loss of the season.

After shutting out the Packers in the third quarter, keeping scoreless a Packers team that led the NFL in third quarter scoring, the Bucs coaching staff made a costly decision in the fourth quarter to kick a second onside kick, which Green Bay recovered. That took the momentum away from Tampa Bay, which had just scored on an impressive drive to bring the game within two points of a tie against the Super Bowl champs.


With a short field given to them by the onside kick recovery, the Packers went on to score again on a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, putting the game out of reach and sealing the win for the Packers. The move to make an onside kick undermined any confidence the Tampa Bay coaching staff had in the Buccaneers defense, which for all intents and purposes, had just stifled the Packers juggernaut of an offense the entire third quarter.

The move reminded me of a similar move by the Atlanta Falcons last week against the New Orleans Saints when Coach Mike Smith decided to go for it and failed on fourth down at their own 29-yard line. The Saints went on to win it with an easy field goal by virtue of the great field position attained by the fourth down stop. A move that symbolized Smith’s lack of confidence in his defense was very similar to the move Bucs head coach Raheem Morris made to kick an onside kick against the Packers showing a lack of confidence in his own defense.

To make matters more telling on Morris’ utter lack of confidence in his defense, coach Morris stubbornly went through with his onside kick plan even though the Packers return team was lined up to defend against an onside kick! Whether the Buccaneers onside kick or the Atlanta Falcon fourth down attempt succeeded or not the decision to take this route still sends the same message: “I don’t trust our defense.”

To a man, no one in the Falcons or Buccaneers locker room would express any disdain for their head coach’s decision to not entrust the fate of the game to their defense against high-powered NFL offenses led by quarterbacks Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. The day that either of these teams attain a player that has the caliber to stand up against the “establishment” and can speak the truth about this type of blatant lack of confidence in its defensive players to be clutch in crucial game deciding situations, is the day that these teams turn the corner and rise to the next level as a true power.

Watching the post-game interviews with the team’s players, quite honestly made me sick to my stomach. Every one of the players asked about their coach’s decision, cower down and towed the company line, not willing to express any second-guessing about their head coach’s risky decision.

When I played for the Buccaneers, as I grew into a valued NFL player, I quite often spoke my mind. Many times speaking my mind meant speaking against the “establishment” or the “establishment’s” franchise players, which would ruffle some feathers to say the least. In fact, I was on a team full of players that demanded the ball and demanded to be trusted in clutch situations. Players like Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson and Keyshawn Johnson would have never been able to suck up their pride as a competitor and tow the company line.

Instead, they would have called out their coach, they would have stood up and expressed the insult that the coach’s decision made them feel, they would have dealt with the consequences and dealt with the assured call into the head coach’s office the day after the game. And assuredly, those type of players end up being the fire and the light that other players rally around and look to for much needed leadership and inspiration. These types of players are the ones who inevitably take a team up another notch and make the difference between a team comprised of a bunch of Indians running around with no chief, to a group of warriors who are true men led by true men.

Certain accountability is gained when a team consists of players that in clutch situations demand the ball or that demand the chance to do what it is they are highly trained to do. A certain camaraderie and cohesiveness is lost amongst football teams when coaches decide to not trust their players and rather decided to make highly irrational and risky moves instead. A certain level of toughness and resolve grows in the teams that have those players that refuse to tow the company line afraid to speak against their superiors.

These teams are the ones with character, with moxie, and the ones that become winners and champions. The teams that consist of such players rarely would see their head coach even make these risky decisions instead of entrusting his fate in his defense because that head coach respects the men on his defense too much to insult them that way.

One day maybe the Bucs will grow into a team that has those type of players, or acquire one of these such players in free agency, and it will take this team up to the next level. With a team full of young players whose future with the Bucs is not entrenched in contracts or solidified with many years of the franchise’s investment in time and energy, it is hard for these young players to have confidence to answer the call.

But for now at this point in the team’s maturation we are left with a moral victory, a pat on the back, and a group of “yes men” who would not dare question their coach’s decision, which ultimately devalued them on national television.  I’m wondering, who are these guys? What do they really feel and think? Will anyone eventually develop and stand up? Will anyone rise to the top and dare to become a leader? Go Bucs.

Chidi Ahanotu was an NFL defensive end for 12 seasons, including eight with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2000). Ahanotu is the fifth all-time leading sacker in Buccaneers history with 34.5 QB captures. His career-high 10 sacks in 1997 helped the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and led to him being Tampa Bay's franchise player in 1998.

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 13:01
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COMMENTS

  • avatar

    Once again for like the 50th time this season...3 mins left, and the defense when it absolutely needs to step up AND DO IT"S JOB!!!!! FAILS!!!! just gave up the driving score to make it 20-17 against the Titans Chidi!!!! Not trying to belittle the viewpoint you presented in this writing but how caqn you possibly try to criticize Raheem for NOT wanting to leave it on his defense with frequent repeat performances like they just put on film....The absolute most important time when you need your D to show up and they allow a touchdown....Again, way off on this one.
  • avatar

    Chidi, have you even watched the first 10 games this year???They have made back up rookie qbs look good and the 40+ yard plays they are giving up EVERY SINGLE GAME is killing us!They might make an NFL record by the time this season is done!I can understand why coach Morris had no faith in the defense stopping them because they couldn't the 1st two quarters.He was banking on ST do their jobs and put the ball a whole lot sooner in the hands of the players with the hot hand, the offense.They didn't. What would he have looked like letting the Packers getting the ball back and they run out the clock?It's been said before Free throws properly to Winslow on the 2 pt conversion then Morris probably doesn't do the second onside kick. I personally don't blame Winslow because it was way too far behind and low because he was going in the other direction.I love these former players who talk about what they would have done or have done in the past. That's in the past! We don't have Brooks, Sapp or Lynch on this team.Until this team develops an image all its own we never will. Chidi you were never a vocal leader on this team because you could never get out of Sapps shadow!
  • avatar


    I'm sure the Saint's defense was insulted at the beginning of the 2nd half of their Superbowl.
  • avatar


    That's not even close to the same situation, of course, Radio's butt-kissers will spin it as though it is. Typical.....
  • avatar

    F__k you with your RADIO inference. I am tired of you white posters referring to him like he's some kind of retard because the color of his skin!It isn't just about the character in a movie.Just like some of you like to say"He can't speak a coherent sentence!It's all just code speak!I just wish the ones who don't like us having a Black head coach would man up and post how they really feel.I personally feel thats part of the reason home games aren't sold out because you didn't come out when we were winning last year and the first 5 games when we were winning!That is the only reason why you call him that!F--k anybody who gets offended by what I just posted because you all know its the truth!I will always say no one says a word about the sputtering of Bill Cowher who always looks like he has some nasty chew in his mouth!.
  • avatar


    Absolutely, these players should speak their mind because right now they are playing for their lives as Buccaneers. Decisions like these is what makes the team look real bad nationally as Chidi said. Decisions like these is what gets a coach fired ultimately and once that happens a new coach comes in and players get the axe to be able to fit new systems or get phased out in the new systems. IMO you never ever should give the Pack a second chance at a short field after cutting the lead to two and still having that much time left in the game. Make them earn them earn the score and not to mention you know they are gonna come out throwing to try and put the dagger in and that just gives more chances of a pick or turnover while making them earn it. The D was not playing all that bad at all, except Biggers of course. The whole thing makes me sick and is just another reason why THE RAHEEM EXPERIMENT should be cancelled!
  • avatar

    Chidi, I do see your point and it does bear some serious consideration, even with the current roster of unproven-underachieving players. I can see why you state that someone should stand up and be tactfully honest about how they would relish the opportunity to knockout the champs. Not to undermine the staff but to show we are capable and willing to stand up for our team as a defense.
  • avatar


    If anyone should be calling out the coaches it should be Legarette Blount "Give me the damn ball", see what I can do with it, when you feed me enough.
  • avatar

    You definitely can blame Olsen on that one then of course they players not getting their job done!
  • avatar


    I'm patiently waiting for leadership to emerge in the Bucs' locker room. The mantle is being pushed onto guys, but as of yet a unifying force has yet to emerge. Not everybody is lucky enough to get a field general like Lewis, Brooks, or Willis. As far as the onside kick and the disrespect and calling out the coach--The same coach that shouldered the responsibility and worked these young guys back into a frenzy to go out and play with the Superbowl champs? Are you telling me the onside had nothing to do with the clock and the minimum 2 minutes that would have ticked off by punting WITH total faith in your defense? The concern of driving the field with only 1:something left on the clock? This isn't POPWarner, these are players in the NFL, and their job is to win the game; however that may be. Is their psyche so fragile, their loyalty to their team so short lived or their egos so large that they are going to take a personal insult to a coaching decision made for a team victory? Is the same coach that stood in front of the media and took responsibility for play on the field, not going to stand in the meeting room and talk about his decision? I'm not there, and I don't know--but the call to arms seems a little off.
  • avatar


    Love your articles Chidi. In my view, the real turning point of the Dungy era was the San Diego game in 1996.The next step up was the 49ers game that gave the team it's swagger. I get your point that players should be angry that their perspective of the coach's message to them was that of distrust. I do believe it would be proper for key members of the team to express that resentment to their coach.........but in private. It's easy enough for a player being interviewed to express his true feelings about lacking the head coach's confidence without publicly criticizing the coach's decision. Doing that creates a story line for the media that can go on unchecked for weeks. How about vowing to take the steps necessary to attain that respect? Back in your day, that call would have shown confidence because we all knew if the opponent got the ball on our 40 yard line they'd still be punting. As Archie and Edith Bunker would say, "Those were the days."
  • avatar


    Love ya Chidi, if anything, your articles bring color. I can understand both sides BUT what gets me is not being truthful. People on this board imply that throwing your coach under the bus in wrong. I do not see it that way but I do understand their point. Perhaps a compromise to this is to simply say "no comment" I mean anything else is, as you say, not being truthful. You were a player and voiced your opinions and that is fine, If others do not want to speak their mind then at least be truthful about it..NO COMMENT works. The media has another agenda and the truth is not usually where the story is. So I can see why players may resent voicing their opinions. You had the courage to speak your opinions and as long as their is no intentional disrespect from the players towards the establishment, I see no harm in voicing it. Keep them coming Chidi!!
  • avatar


    You've convinced me that Raheem made the right call. i don't trust this defense either. Not against the league's best offense.
  • avatar


    Pride is a sin for a reason. It makes you do boneheaded things like call out your boss where 7 billion people can hear it. They should be playing with confidence, swagger and professionalism, not pride. Pride is also what causes those 15 yard personal foul penalties. Pride is putting yourself before the team. Lalvarad made a great point about the Lions game last year. Morris is learning from his mistakes. The defense is paid for production, not pride. Morris is getting paid to win games, not cater to his players' pride. Morris did what he thought gave his team the best chance to win and I hope he continues to make those types of decisions. He's a head coach now, not just a defensive coordinator.
  • avatar


    Disagree completely with Chiti's premise. No player calls out his coach publicly. It's usually done behind closed door with no media around.
  • avatar


    It does not matter this stupid argument. Point. They had a chance to STOP the Packers where they were and got burned by our own player that did NOT make the play. Our offense left points on the field. Pass interferance -4. Freeman pick that close most likely at least -3. That alone is 7 plus the other field goals that were settled for. Morris proved his point. The Defense should have at least not given up a 40 yard bomb!! At least hold them to a field goal. But, Thats what happened. Had it worked he would have been brilliant. The first one when they first said it belonged to the Bucs , how many came off the couch and said how stupid he was until they over turned the call?
  • avatar

    One more point...you are spot on about your assesment of defense..their job is to stop the other teams offense...SHORT FIELD, LONG FIELD DOESN"T MATTER!!!!!!....GO OUT THERE AND DO YOUR DAM JOB AND GIVE THE HEAD COACH A FEW GAMES OF ABSOLUTE TOTAL DEFENSIVE CONSISTENCY AND THEN LOOK FOR HIM TO HAVE FAITH IN YOU TO MAKE A STOP WHEN NEEDED...LONG OR SHORT FIELD. I can respect a defensive player's personal feeling of dislike for the call, but he can share that with the head coach on his own time...If Im the coach and a player thinks he can CALL ME OUT when he has done nothing except be part of one of the worst ranked defenses in the NFL this season, I'm sending him packing. Honestly, name me the player who thinks he can call out his head coach that doesn't get sent packing. IT DOESN"T HAPPEN. I don't care if your name is JAMES HARRISON and the coach is MIKE TOMLIN, or any other player/coach in this league.
  • avatar


    Chidi, I can't believe you thought the Buc's stood toe to toe with the champs. The Pack looked like a team going though the motions, the Buc's never had a chance in that game, the Pack could've scored anytime, from anywhere. The Buc's agreed with their coach because they new he was right.Did you really believe the Buc's would've ever seen the ball had they kicked away? Come on man,the game I watched was the varsity whipping the J.V.!
  • avatar

    Sounds like you are trying to stir the pot to me Chidi..Honestly, can you name me the player that stood up and called out Bill Bellicheck when he came out and admitted that he did not have the faith in his defense against Peyton Manning and the Colts and instead made Brady and the offense go for it on fourth down a season or two ago?? And Bellicheck's crudentials don't matter...He's the head coach, he's the boss. As a former player, did you ever feel brash enough to go and CALL OUT your head coach, or did you know your role, did your job, and leave the coaching to the coach...Raheem WANTS to believe in his defense...he's the one calling the fricking plays...but if I'm Raheem Morris with the roller coaster ride my defense has had on me all season, I'm kicking that 2nd onside kick myself and the message that needs to get through to my young defensive players with that 2nd kick is "Give me consistency, and I'll give you the chance to prove yourselves." It doesn't matter if the defense held the Pack in check for the entire 3rd quarter...they had a chance to make a stop, short field or not and they didn't come through...Once again we come back to the matter of consistency.
  • avatar

    Okay so instead of speaking up and expressing dislike for the coach's decision to not trust his defensive players, they should have lied in their interviews like they did and say they agreed with his decision and tow the company line??? I don't think so. Speaking up is not about arguing and blasting your organization thru the media. Its about being TRUTHFUL and having pride as a defensive player. As a defensive player its our job to STOP teams. When a coach systematically takes that responsibility away from you, it is a very humiliating and embarrassing to say the least....that is IF you has a defensive player has any pride at all in your craft.
  • avatar

    Naturally the players are going to say the "right things" to the media; privately to the coach and each other is a different matter. I do disagree with the call at that point in the game - way to early for the onside kick. But if I am on that defense - I appreciate the coaches confidence in me to defend a short field, against a prolific offense, at their house and will publicly say so. Now when the cameras are off - I am probably in coaches ear saying, "what the hell?"
  • avatar

    Then the players need to man up and blame themselves for their piss poor play! I have yet to see Biggers man up and talk about his inferior play and inability to cover freakin receivers!The coach ALWAYS comes out and blames himself never individual players.Not even the team as a whole just maybe talks about the missed opportunities or penalties.How is it that the coach is not supposed to call out the players for their poor performance on the field but the players are supposed to be able to call out the coach for having more faith in his offense?Former Player please!
  • avatar

    Mr. Ahanotu, I disagree with your opinion 100%. Although I think the onside kick call was wrong with a little over four minutes left on the clock, Coach Morris completely trusted his defense. Onside kicks fail 75% of the time - that percentage is even higher I suspect when the receiving team is lined up to defend it. The right call would have been to kick it deep and make the Packers go about 80 yards. By not doing that, Morris was saying, "chances are (75%) that the Packers recover and I trust you guys to keep them from scoring". That, to me, is a huge statement of confidence. Why Myron Lewis was left one on one with Jordy Nelson though is another arguement for another day.
  • avatar


    Morris was right not to completely trust the defense (how quickly we forget the lions game last year when he decided to trust the defense). That throw to nelson would have been a touchdown pass from anywhere on the field, including the 20 yard line had they kicked off the ball. The bucs didn't just have to prevent Green bay from scoring but from getting a couple of first downs in order to get the ball back with just 4 minutes on the clock. That's pretty hard since they have like the best offense in the NFL.
  • avatar


    Bottom line we played well on the line...Biggers was the key for GB...they exploited him all day...Talib had a awesome game but he is hanging out back there by himself!...Biggers Lynch and even Ronde at times...just killed the effort by our front four!...we need more impact at the DB position teams take too much advantage of it.
  • avatar

    Everything was fine until they went man and tried to get to rodgers with an all out blitz, and got beat! Didn´t care for the defensive play called
  • avatar


    The 49ers game was at the old stadium, not RJS.
  • avatar


    I also do not think that the players should call out the coach or coaches in the public Media....and we don't really know if they did call them out behind closed doors.....But I did agree with everything else Chidi said...
  • avatar


    I don't disagree with you Chidi, but that is what this team has got rid of. They traded Keyshawn for it. They let Sapp walk in free agency because of it. They are not picking up any free agents because they are worried about some one speaking up against the team. I don't think those "strong" players fit with Raheem at head coach. I think this "youth" movement is about molding a bunch of yes men. The only reason they picked up Albert is because it was a critical need, he came cheap, and if he speaks out of line once, they can make an example by cutting him. He knows this is the last chance, so he will tow the company line no matter what he feels.
  • avatar


    While I understand the article's opinion, I can't say that I totally agree with the sentiment. It's not always a positive when players speak out against a coach or vs a team decision. As noted by nybuccguy, leaders can do so in other ways. Yes, there are cases where speaking out leads to positive outcomes, but just speaking out for the sake of being 'anti-establishment' overrides the team focus that they are trying to achieve with such a young group. It is also true that it means more when a veteran steps up and offers his opinion, but there are very few with that type of veteran respect on this young squad (Ronde being the exception). In this case, there are valid points to either side of the onside kick argument, so I don't see why arguing this via the media would have been helpful. In fact, seeing only one side this argument should be seen as rather closed minded. Just the fact that the onside kick came so close to working (it was loose for quite some time after 10 yds) shows that it was a valid gamble. Would I have called for that kick? No. But was the reward of getting the ball, draining the clock and kicking a winning FG a worthy gamble? Arguably, yes. Thus, arguing just for the sake of arguing seems rather hollow in this case.
  • avatar


    Great points, Chidi. You were always one of my favorites because you DID say what you thought. You and Sapp would have roasted Dungy or Gruden if they had taken the ball and the game away from you. We need our young Bucs of today to do the same. Not because it will make them look good, but because they are truly angry about their coach not trusting them. We also need them, especially on defense, to stand up and make plays in the clutch. We needed our defense at the end, and they frankly let us down.
  • avatar


    I agree that our defense is lacking leadership. Its a complete joke that Quincy Black is the captain for gods sake. I think Clayborn will turn into that fiery leader we may need. If not him...hopefully Foster or one of the other Bucs. I disagree with Chidi that the players should call out the coaches publicly in the media though. Leaders can be outspoken behind closed doors. You dont see the Packers or Patriots pulling that crap in the media.
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