The day after Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris got his first win as a head coach he shared his reaction and feelings about getting his first victory. Morris, 33, is the youngest head coach in the NFL, and entered Sunday's contest with the Green Bay Packers with a record of 0-7. The Bucs were the last winless team in the NFL prior to the win. Morris was asked how different Sunday night was compared to previous weeks.
"There wasn't a knot in my stomach," Morris said. "I do the same thing. I go home, see the family, and I chill out and watch other people be miserable. For me it is the same deal. I didn't throw a party, or tear up Tampa or anything like that."
Morris escalated from a defensive backs coach to head coach during the 2009 offseason. After numerous years as a defensive assistant to former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Morris was promoted to defensive coordinator when Kiffin left for Tennessee, and then head coach after Tampa Bay fired Jon Gruden. Morris talked about the Bucs outlook prior to the victory, and how his team has stuck together throughout the seven losses to open the season.
"We started out and said we got nine games here, after the bye week," Morris said. "New season. Nine games, this league is competitive and everybody wants to be in it. The only you stay in it is to play well. All the guys in our locker room, they are so young, they are fighting for their jobs. Everybody. All of us, coaches, players, myself, we know that. There is no quit. We don't have a professionally led team with a bunch of guys that can shut it down and say I'll be back next year because my contract says this. We just don't have that. It was never a problem. These guys want to win. They want to win for each other, for us, for this organization, they want to win for these fans, and yesterday was a great example of it."
The Buccaneers had a lot of big plays that helped spark their first win of the season. Tampa Bay had an interception returned for a touchdown, a punt block returned for a touchdown, an 83-yard kick return that set up a touchdown, and a 36-yard interception return that set up a touchdown. Bucs players said the victory helps the team to build confidence going forward.
"I felt something in the locker room yesterday. Ronde [Barber] and I were talking about it. We kind of lost our swagger," said cornerback Elbert Mack. "When we came in the locker room yesterday we felt like we had our swagger back. It felt that way during the practices, too, after the bye. I don't know what it was, but it just seemed like we were ready to go. Now it feels like we got a little of our swagger back."
After the game Morris said that he received a number of phone calls and text messages of congratulations from around the league.
"You get that stuff, you don't respond right away because then you have a conversation with everybody," said Morris. "You just text them in the middle of the night when you wake up. Derrick Brooks, some of the guys you know, Warren Sapp. I take Sapp's phone call because if I don't take Sapp's phone call he'll yell at me. Mike Tomlin told me about cutting his teeth in this business and getting his first win. It was special. Everybody called. It was really congratulatory texts because everybody knows I don't answer the phone. I got all the texts and responded to them this morning about four or five in the morning because I actually went to sleep a little early. I guess that would be different."
Morris was asked if he got a message of congratulations from former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. As an analyst for CBS, Cowher had predicted Tampa Bay to go winless in 2009. When asked about Cowher and his prediction, Morris shrugged off the comments.
"I got nothing from Bill Cowher. I didn't get text from Bill Cowher," said Morris. "Oh that's all right. I'm sure a lot of people [predicted that]. That doesn't matter to me. I don't buy into the mental weakness, that hype of the situation. Every former player, coach, analyst they all have their own opinion. None of that stuff really bothers me. I think you guys know me well enough that I'm pretty confident."
Offensive captain center Jeff Faine said that win or loss the team maintains the same level of work and effort going into each game.
"It was important to win from a standpoint that it was important to come in this locker room on Monday with a smile on your face," said Faine. "It's a breath of fresh air. But I have no doubt that had the outcome of the game been different yesterday we'd still be coming in here and working just as hard this week. That's how this team is built."
Morris was asked if it a challenge to keep the players on an even-keel after a win, and not letting the team get too high after snapping their eleven-game losing streak dating back to the 2008 season.
"I don't think we can. We are 1-7. We aren't competing for the NFC Championship Game yet," Morris said. "These guys got to come in this week, and build off what they did the week before. The hard work paid off. With how hard they practiced last week and in the past paid off. We talked about that last week a little bit, having two sharp practices before Friday paid off. The bye week paid off. We got in good competitive work in for the short amount of time there. It was some good stuff."