Bucs coach says he's not worried about job

Mike Smith, Raheem Morris
Mike Smith, Raheem Morris

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, left, shakes hands with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris after the Falcons defeated the Buccaneers 20-10 during an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010, in Tampa, Fla.

Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press
Published: Monday, January 4, 2010 at 7:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 4, 2010 at 7:03 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Raheem Morris shrugged off another question about his future with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, insisting he's not worried about his job.

"I'll stand here and coach until I go," the NFL's youngest coach said Sunday, after a 20-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons capped a 3-13 season — the Bucs' worst since 1991, when Richard Williamson was fired with the same record.

"My mom and my pop were both laid off when I was 13 years old, and nobody told them that they were going to get fired. That's just the reality of the world we live in," Morris said. "This game is not for everybody. I tell people all the time, if I'm sitting around worrying about getting fired I have my own issues. My own demons. I'm very confident in what I do."

Now, Morris and his players will find out how much faith the Glazer family has in the first-year coach, who replaced Jon Gruden last January.

Ownership has not commented publicly on the situation. Morris reiterated he doesn't read a lot into the silence.

"Our owners are always quiet. ... I've never heard our owners say anything publicly. That's how it is," Morris said. "They're quiet in the office when I'm talking to them. None of that stuff matters. Your job is to coach until somebody tells you to stop. That's the bottom line."

Matt Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes and Jason Snelling filled in for injured Michael Turner with 147 yards rushing as the Falcons (9-7) clinched consecutive winning records for the first time his franchise history.

The accomplishment offered little solace for a team that won 11 games last season and expected to return to the playoffs this year.

"We're very disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs because that was one of the bigger goals that we wanted to attain," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

"I told our guys (Saturday night), 'This is the end of the 2009 season, but it's really the beginning of the 2010 season on the calendar.' We wanted to finish strong, and we wanted to get three straight wins to lead us off into 2010."

Ryan tossed TD passes of 2 yards to Justin Peelle and 12 yards to Roddy White, the latter snapping a 10-10 tie midway through the fourth quarter. Ryan finished 23 of 35 with two interceptions.

Snelling rushed for 131 yards after halftime. His 22-yard burst led to White's touchdown, and he added gains of 11, 21 and 22 yards on a drive that produced Matt Bryant's field goal with just over a minute remaining.

The Bucs upset Seattle and New Orleans on the road the previous two weeks, making a case that they're headed in the right direction under Morris, who began the season losing 12 of 13.

Several players expressed support, saying they believe the 33-year-old coach deserves to return for another season.

"I don't have to sit here and defend Raheem. Raheem is a great coach. He always has been," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "He's a hands-on guy. He put his hands in the mix. Guys are strong on him. It's that simple. I don't have to defend him. He doesn't have to defend himself."

Rookie Josh Freeman finished 3-6 as Tampa Bay's starting quarterback. He was 16 of 32 for 174 yards and one touchdown Sunday, an 8-yard throw to Antonio Bryant that made it 10-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs wasted an opportunity to take control of the game.

One play after Sabby Piscatelli's interception gave Tampa Bay the ball near midfield, Freeman's pass was intercepted by the Falcons' Christopher Owens and returned to the Bucs 44, setting the stage for Ryan's go-ahead TD pass to White.

"It was a huge win for us to finish the season off with three wins in a row. It said a lot about the guys that we have in the locker room," said Ryan, who led Atlanta to 11 wins and a playoff berth as a rookie last season.

"We need to be there every year," Ryan added of Atlanta's consecutive winning seasons. "We need to be relevant, and we have to be able to sustain long term. This is something we hope is not just a back-to-back thing. We hope it's something we can do 10, 12, 15 years."

Notes: The Falcons held the Bucs to 206 yards total offense. ... A week after having his first 100-yard game in over three years, Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams rushed for 40 yards on 19 carries. ... Freeman set a Bucs rookie record with 10 TD passes.

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