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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Morris getting back to his coaching roots

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:28 AM
LANDOVER, Md. -

If Raheem Morris harbors any bitterness over his dismissal from the Bucs eight months ago, the jabs he took for being so close to his players or the cache of free agents given to his successor – players that could have altered his tenure as Tampa Bay head coach – it is not detectable in his voice.

A secondary coach with the Washington Redskins – who the Bucs visit tonight for their final preseason game – Morris still talks of his three-year rollercoaster ride as Buccaneers helmsman with all the enthusiasm of someone riding a 10-game winning streak, even though a 10-game losing streak ultimately cost him his job.

"I don't look back and think of what happened in Tampa in negative terms at all,'' Morris said by phone last week from Redskins Park. "I was given a great opportunity there and we put together a good season (in 2010) and then we came back and, for whatever reason, we just didn't do as well last year.

"If you look at all the things that happened while I was there, we did do some good things. And there are some things I'm proud to have been a part of. We just didn't finish the deal and so you have to find a way to get better.''

Morris decided the best way for him to get better was to return to his coaching roots. After he produced a bell-curve of results with the Bucs, sandwiching a 3-13 2009 season and a 4-12 2011 season around that 10-6 run in 2010, he signed on with the Redskins less than a month after being fired in Tampa.

The move set him two steps back on a career path that was riding the fast lane four years ago, but the secondary is where Morris got his start in the NFL with the Bucs in 2002. He thinks a stint with the Redskins will help get him back into that fast lane again.

"Being a part of this defense is something different, something new for me,'' said Morris, who worked primarily in 4-3 schemes under former Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin but is working mostly in a 3-4 system with the Redskins.

"It's a defense that's very similar to what they do in Pittsburgh, which has one of the best defenses in the league. Plus, I've got the opportunity here to work with Mike Shanahan and learn from all that he's done in this league.''

A cynic would suggest Morris could have used time with veteran head coach Mike Shanahan before he took over the Bucs in 2009. Morris doesn't disagree. He was only 32 at the time, the youngest head coach in the league, and just a few months removed from being a position coach.

But if you think time with Shanahan will change Morris's personable coaching style, forget it. Morris believes his unique way of connecting with and relating to players put him in the coaching fast lane in the first place. He still considers it his strength.

"There is no other way to do it in my opinion,'' he said. "I believe those guys will play for you if they love you and one year it worked out for us and one year we just didn't get it done on the field. That's all.

"(The struggles in 2011) had nothing to do with how close I was to my guys. That's how I go about my business. Sure, you can always make adjustments and do some things better, but I can't change who I am.''

The Redskins wouldn't think of asking Morris to change. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall said the 'Skins defensive backs took an immediate liking to Morris, particularly his personable trash-talking swagger.

"I ain't the loudest one on the defense no more,'' Hall told the Washington Post in June. "Raheem probably is. And I just love his energy. I love his coaching style."

Morris has quite a task ahead of him with the 'Skins, trying to transform a secondary that produced just 10 interceptions last season. Not that difficult challenges are anything new to Morris.

His first Bucs team was stripped of virtually all its veterans and transformed into the youngest team in the league. It stayed that way throughout his tenure, the dearth of veterans no doubt contributing to Tampa Bay's struggles. Morris believes he helped forge a better future for the Bucs by buying into the rebuilding program.

"There's no question that bringing in guys like Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams allowed us to have some success while I was there and that the success will continue because of them,'' he said.

"That's why I think they'll bounce back this year. They have a lot of good young football players and they have really good coaches. I have a lot of respect for the (coaches) they brought in, so it's going to be fun to watch them.''

Morris, who turns 36 next week, is still building his resume. By accepting an assistant position in Washington, he took himself out of the coaching spotlight. But he hopes to bask in that glow again some day.

"I'd love to be a head coach again, because I really did have a ball doing it,'' he said. "I had a bunch of fun and I know the next time I do it I'll be older, wiser and hopefully a lot better at it. That's why I'm here.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTrib

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