“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled,” (Mt 23:12)
Raheem Morris, Josh Freeman and Mark Dominik all are witnessing a forging. A forging being tempered by flames of humility shaping and strengthening like fire does to steel.
Eight-game losing streaks tend to do that to a man.
When I met Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman for the first time it was in Miami at the 2010 ESPN Super Bowl Party held at the Fountain Blue Hotel. Freeman had just finished his first season in the NFL. I happened upon a distinguished man who offered me a cigar – it was Josh Freeman’s father, Ron. A most delightful and pleasant man whom engaged in a nice conversation with a stranger. For at that moment Mr. Freeman had no idea who I was, nor I him. We talked at length and during the exploits of our conversation soon my name and past profession in the NFL was revealed to Mr. Freeman, and his as a professional football player to me.
Upon finding out that this warm soul I had the pleasure to make acquaintance was actually Josh’s dad, I fully expected when I met his famous offspring that I’d be met with the same warm, genuine embrace. Josh Freeman himself soon walked up alone and his dad introduced me.
Eager, Mr. Freeman said, “Hey Josh, this is Chidi Ahanotu. He played nine years for the Buccaneers. He was the franchise player.”
With a haughty air of arrogance and utter disregard, without looking at me, Josh offered a quick limp hand shake to me and said only, “Hey. C’mon dad. Let’s go”. And Josh walked away.
His dad looked at me as if to apologize for his son, offered a quick parting hand shake and hurried off to catch up with his son.
Each of the few times after this when I was introduced to Josh Freeman, I was greeted by the same ego-filled disdain. Yes, I was introduced to him every time I was in front of him. You see, Josh never remembers who I am. Josh never takes it upon himself to say hello to a former Buccaneer. Or Josh just doesn’t give a damn who I am and doesn’t care.
A year later in the summer of 2011, Morris and Freemen were sitting in the same golf cart at a Plant High School charity golf tourney. After standing at their cart for a good while chatting with Morris, he says, “Chidi, you know Josh Freeman, no?”
“Hey Josh, this is former Buccaneer, Chidi Ahanotu.”
Freeman says, “Hey.”
Quick, limp handshake. Barely looks at me.
When the foundation of a man is an ego-filled, pound-on-your-chest arrogance, more often than not he’s setting himself up for a steep fall. Morris is such a man. Freeman is such a man.
The Good Book says pride is the first step to destruction. It is a slippery slope to build around. You see, when the basis of your “schtick” is based on this type of ego-filled, pound-on-your-chest arrogance, it does not leave much room to account for a little thing called failure.
Losing eight in a row tends to bruise egos a bit to say the least, making it very hard to maintain a leadership role that was built wholeheartedly on ego. How do you keep your men following you? What do you say? How do you face your men? How do you face yourself?
There’s not much left to say.
The entire core of your mantra has been unequivocally obliterated.
All that’s left is vapors.
Ask the great, future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, how his famous pre-game rants will be received after the Ravens got demolished 34-14 like they did this past Sunday night against the San Diego Chargers.
Ray Lewis: “Are my dawgs in the house?!”
Ravens: “WOOF, Woof, woof, woo … aw heck, Ray, can’t we just skip this barking just once?”
Stoic coaches like the great Dallas Cowboy former head Coach Tom Landry, the poised Tony Dungy, and the infamously boorish Bill Bellichik, never had to worry about falling down a slope so steep because win or lose, they maintained the same demeanor and same approach. This attribute is what made playing for Dungy so great for me and other players that are endeared to him.
But when coaches ride on highs of emotion when their team wins and defiant brash spouts when their team loses; after a while the folks that are following your lead start to notice that all that daring talk doesn’t always equate to attaining wins or prevent getting totally blown out in games. Just ask the infamously brazen New York Jets head coach Rob Ryan how his brash predictions are being received in his locker room.
The defiant, brash, ego-filled, pound-on-your-chest method of leading eventually falls on deaf ears when you are losing.
Eight-straight losses tend to spark this loss of belief and loss of fervor.
The Bucs' leaders, led by Dominik, who can be equally arrogant and ego-fueled as his head coach and his starting quarterback, are indeed being humbled. This trio of men has a commonality that is reason for their arrogant foundation. That similarity is that all three men rose to the top from the bottom of obscurity in the pro football biz.
They all had something to prove to the world that seemed to have forced them to begin their rise from the humble stoop whence they came from. Hence a chip was born on each of their shoulders that bred contempt and fueled their mission. Dominik was essentially a gopher in his early days with the Bucs. Morris was very much the same at the bottom of the totem pole. And Freeman … well, I don’t think many folks had even heard of him before the Bucs made him their first pick in the 2009 draft.
Humbling is a painful process. When you are stripped of ego and ripped of pride, the eventual end product is a thing called growth. I hope everyone knew that this building-from-within youth movement would take a very strong resolve to stick to the plan even in the face of pains such as these.
Dismantling the team, the head coach, or the GM, would make a lie to the whole youth movement plan. What did folks think? That building a team from scratch would be easy?
Because of this humbling, in 2012 Buc fans will witness a blossoming from these leaders. Success is in their future … if Morris makes it all the way to this future. Maybe the youth movement carries on without its young head coach.
After all, the Bucs owners have to appease the angry mob of fans clamoring for Morris’ head on a stick and appease the fans threatening to not buy season tickets anymore. Maybe Morris is replaced with a seasoned former head coach with Super Bowl-winning credentials and becomes the new leader of this youth movement.
This humbling of Morris & Co. may have destroyed their confidence altogether, maybe never to be seen again. A look at the faces of Morris and his players on the sidelines and on the field during games is the look of men stripped of their core essence and humbled to no end.
No more chest-pounding. No more brash brazen daring rants. No more lofty, ego-filled spring in their gait as they strut about.
Even the great “Prime Time” Deion Sanders stated on the NFL Network coverage that these Bucs have quit on each other and quit on Morris. Heck, even Morris has been accused by some of looking like he has quit on his team. It’s to be expected when you have been humbled to such a degree after pounding your chest, declaring how good you are and exclaiming what you are going to do to the NFL.
Let us see if the Bucs' owners give Morris, Freeman and Dominik a chance to grow from this humbling and prove that they can rise from the ashes. Let us see if Dominik uses this lesson learned and arm his head coach with a more talented roster than Dominik assumed he had. Dominik needs to get some proven, seasoned veteran talent, such as a deep-threat wide receiver to stretch the field and a true vocal veteran leader at the linebacker position.
Let us see if Morris uses this lesson learned to tweak his head coaching leadership style to a more fundamentally sound mantra and more humble war cry. Let’s see if Freeman uses this lesson learned and tweak his approach to how he treats people and how he treats this game of football … with respect and humility.
Or maybe the humbling of Raheem Morris & Co. ends up with the entire gang of them smoldering on a pile of dosed out ashes tossed out on the curb.
Humbling tends to do that too.
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. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent Pewtereport.com.