Morris will return as Buccaneers coach


Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 7:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 7:51 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Raheem Morris will return for a second season as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs made the announcement in a one-sentence statement from team co-chairman Joel Glazer, who said ownership supports a plan set in motion after the NFL's youngest coach was hired last January.

The Bucs went 3-13 in the 33-year-old Morris' first season. The club's worst finish since 1991 fueled speculation that the Glazer family might consider a change.

"We are committed to the plan that we began 12 months ago with coach Morris, and we look forward to building on the pieces that were put in place this season," Glazer said.

The announcement came hours after Morris said despite the team's poor record, he believes the Bucs are headed in the right direction.

The coach identified his top offseason priorities on Monday as the continued development of rookie Josh Freeman and using the draft to surround the 21-year-old quarterback with promising young talent.

The Bucs will have five of the first 99 selections, including No. 3 overall.

"You've got to say No. 5's the biggest priority, making sure everything works around him, because when it worked around him, we were able to be successful," Morris said, referring to Freeman's jersey number.

Freeman moved into the lineup following an 0-7 start. He passed for 1,857 yards and 10 touchdowns — both Tampa Bay rookie records — but also threw 18 interceptions and was sacked 20 times while going 3-6 and compiling a quarterback rating of 59.9.

"I definitely learned a lot. Obviously I had my ups and my downs, but I got a lot of valuable experience," Freeman said. "I couldn't imagine sitting out this entire season and going into the first game next year not having any game experience."

Besides being encouraged by Freeman's play, Morris felt the Bucs began to establish an identity as a team that runs the ball and plays stingy defense with late-season victories over Seattle and New Orleans.

The Bucs spent much of the year regrouping from the firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski less than two weeks before the season opener. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates was ousted after 10 games, and Morris took over playcalling responsibilities down the stretch.

The head coach was noncommittal about whether former quarterbacks coach Greg Olson will continue as offensive coordinator. He's also pondering whether he will continue to lead a defense that played better under his guidance.

"I've got a feeling year two will be a lot less dramatic for me. There was a lot of stuff going on this year," Morris said, noting there were changes to the roster last winter, including the release of veterans Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Warrick Dunn.

"We have to find our direction, which we have, keep going that way and keep getting better. It has been a lot of ups and downs. It has been a rough year on all of us. Hopefully next year it could be a lot smoother sailing and a lot better for all of us."

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