Look Back in Horror
The day after the Bucs 2009 season came to a merciful conclusion, Paul Stewart commented that Raheem Morris had a good deal in common with former Buccaneer coach Richard Williamson.
I concur with Paul and will go even one step further: The 2009 Buccaneers have a great deal in common with the 1991 Buccaneers. To this day 1991 is one of my least favorite years of Buc fandom.
Let’s start with the head coaches: Richard Williamson was a congenial, well-loved man in the Buccaneer locker room. Williamson replaced Ray Perkins, a man many players had grown weary of, with multiple complaints about his totalitarian ways.
It was said that with a “player-friendly” coach like Williamson, the young Buc players would finally reach their potential free form the worry of incurring the “Wrath of Ray.” Sound familiar?
Morris is also a congenial, well-loved coach that replaced a man many felt was a despot. With Jon Gruden gone, Michael Clayton would finally regain his rookie form, the defensive middle would toughen up and food would once again taste good.
How’d that work out? Exactly the same as it did in 1991: a record of 3-13. It’s not just the personalities of the head coaches and the final records that are identical, but the manner in which those 3-13 records were attained.
Morris couldn’t make up his mind when it came to a starting quarterback and that led to offensive stagnation. Morris began the season with Byron Leftwich before suddenly shifting gears and putting in Josh Johnson and ultimately finishing the year with Josh Freeman. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Bucs had Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers on the roster.
The Etch-A-Sketch approach to the quarterbacks (and the offensive coordinator) led to an offensive quagmire matched only by the 1991 team. During that year Williamson started with Vinny Testaverde, then put in Chris Chandler and in desperation threw Jeff Carlson to the wolves. No offensive identity equals no offensive output. To be fair however, I think the Bucs have more hope at the quarterback position in 2010 then they did in 1992.
Much is being made of the argument that Morris should be retained because the Bucs rallied around him and pulled off some impressive victories. I am not that enamored with those wins and although Morris has three more coaching victories than I do, he has one less than Richard Williamson did when the former receivers coach was shown the door (Williamson picked up one win as interim coach in 1990).
Besides, while the wins against Green Bay and New Orleans were impressive, the 1991 Bucs knocked off perennial playoff contender Philadelphia 14-13 when they still had Reggie White and the league’s best defense. Even more impressive was a 30-21 rout of the Detroit Lions. The Lions finished the season 12-4 and made the NFC title Game behind future Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders.
The 24-7 victory over Seattle was nice. Heck, anytime the Buccaneers return from a West Coast road trip with a victory is nice. But this was a REPUS Bowl quality win over a fellow bottom-feeder much like the 1991 season finale. A 17-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts played before 50,000 empty seats at Tampa Stadium was not a springboard to playoff contention any more than the win in the Pacific Northwest was. Instead it was just a case of the Bucs being less lousy than Indianapolis as the Bucs today are less lousy than the Seahawks.
Does this mean that I think Raheem Morris is the second-coming of Richard Williamson? No, that would be unfair to both men and would impugn their careers. Richard Williamson was an excellent receivers coach, grooming some of the best players to play the position in Tampa Bay and the NFL. He just wasn’t ready to be the head coach of a NFL team at that time.
Raheem Morris is an energetic, personable coach who has gotten great performances from the Buccaneers secondary. Remember how inept the Bucs secondary was during the one year Morris left to coach at Kansas State? I think Morris has a very good football mind and a bright future but he is not ready to be a NFL head coach. He can learn on the job, but do the Bucs have time for that? The empty seats on Sunday say that they do not.
Hugh Culverhouse tried his darndest to get Bill Parcells to replace Williamson but couldn’t do it. Mr. C settled on Sam Wyche, a Super Bowl coach from the Bengals who greatly improved the Bucs talent level but fell far short of on-field success.
Will the Glazers try their darndest to get Bill Cowher if, and it is a big IF, the ex-Steelers coach does want to return to the NFL? Who can say for sure except the Glazers? But if they do let Morris go and lose out on Cowher, all we can do is hope that the next coach improves the talent level ala Wyche, but has more on-field success.
Let’s not have 2010 be 1992, because that season was not all that fun either.