PewterReport.com is reporting that Raheem Morris is returning to Tampa Bay to coach the Buccaneers defensive backs. Morris, who signed a multi-year deal, is replacing defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who spent just one year with Buccaneers after coming from USC to replace secondary coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin left last January to become the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator.
Morris, the Buccaneers assistant defensive backs coach from 2004-05, left Tampa Bay last January to become the defensive coordinator at Kansas State University after his contract with the Bucs expired. After realizing that losing Tomlin and Morris hurt the production of the secondary, the Buccaneers went after Morris and lured him back to Tampa Bay with a multi-year contract.
Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen made a strategic mistake in allowing the contracts of Tomlin, Morris, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and defensive assistant Joe Woods to all expire in the 2006 offseason. Tomlin departed and hired Woods to be the Vikings linebackers, Morris went to K-State and Marinelli was hired by Detroit to become the Lions head coach. The Bucs had hoped that Morris would be Tomlin's successor.
The cumulative result of losing all of those defensive assistants prompted Allen to deny Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry the opportunity to become Marinelli’s defensive coordinator last January because it would be too much of a burden on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who already had to break in four new coaches. Barry was forced to stay through 2006 until his contract expired, but was hired by Marinelli on January 2, 2007 to coordinate the Lions defense.
Barry served as Kiffin’s lieutenant last season and helped teach the Tampa 2 scheme to Burns, defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake and defensive quality control coach Casey Bradley. One of the reasons why Morris was sought after was because he could take on that role for Kiffin now that Barry is gone and be his right-hand man.
The departure of Marinelli, Tomlin, Barry and Woods also left a void as to who could possibly succeed the 66-year old Kiffin when the day comes for him to step down as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that Morris, who has always been one of Kiffin’s favorite pupils, could assume that role in time. Kiffin has been Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator since 1996 when he was hired by former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy.
The loss of the high-energy coaching style that both Tomlin and Morris brought was a big one for Tampa Bay as the production of the Buccaneers defensive backs fell as a unit in 2006, despite cornerback Ronde Barber making the Pro Bowl this season. Barber was tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2006, but Tampa Bay’s defensive backs picked off only eight passes in 2006 after recording 15 interceptions a year ago under the tutelage of Tomlin and Morris.
The play of the safety position was one of the reasons Tampa Bay’s defense slipped from a top 10 ranking it had enjoyed since 1997. Missed tackles and taking poor angles drew unwanted attention to Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen, especially with the secondary missing the veteran play of Dexter Jackson, who was signed away by Cincinnati in free agency.
Behind the scenes, members of Tampa Bay’s secondary told Pewter Report that they missed the fiery, approach of Tomlin and Morris and that they were taken aback by the low-key, quiet demeanor of Burns. Players admitted that there was a rough adjustment period this year from Tomlin and Morris to Burns.
One player told Pewter Report, “A lot of times as a player you are a reflection of your coach. Mike T. and Raheem were always hyped up and we played like that, and made splash plays. As you can see, we aren’t that way anymore.”
That is expected to change now that Morris is back and is precisely the reason why Allen brought him back from K-State.
The Buccaneers have lost Barry, replaced Burns and brought back Morris, and sources tell Pewter Report that there will be further attrition on the coaching staff this year. More changes are expected to happen this week.
Allen indicated that all of Tampa Bay’s coaches are under contract with the exception of quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett. Hackett’s deal expired at the end of the season.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org