Joe Henderson Columns
Some sort of change has to be coming for Bucs
TAMPA - Raheem Morris says everyone should blame him for Sunday's debacle. That seems like a good place to start. The head coach doesn't block, tackle, run routes or throw passes, but when the whole team melts down, you start looking at the guy wearing headsets. Those who invested the afternoon at Raymond James Stadium can testify the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were listless, futile, and appeared to have only a trace amount of interest in playing this football game. The 37-9 loss to Houston was so hideous it brought back memories of the time original head coach John McKay told his defeated team, "Those who need showers, take them." It was so bad, cornerback Ronde Barber came into a near-empty locker room after a lengthy post-game meeting with Morris and decided to hold his tongue, at least for the moment. You have to understand, Barber is the sage voice of reason on this team. He can always be counted on for insight.But this time, Barber said he will wait until today to have his say. As he angrily grabbed for his jacket, sending a couple of hangers flying, he stared into his locker and said to no one in particular, "I've never been so despondent after a loss." Barber has had his coach's back since Morris took over 2½ seasons ago, so I won't put words in his mouth this time. I can only say what I saw. I have never seen a team so seemingly ill-prepared to play. The game plan on both sides of the ball was ripped straight from Rick Perry's debate playbook, right down to three more interceptions by Josh Freeman to go with four sacks. The one thing we've consistently heard is the Bucs play hard for Morris, but it sure didn't look like it. I'd suggest Morris faces the biggest crisis of his career. There is some nobility in his willingness to look for swords to fall upon, but the fact they are needed speaks volumes. "The funny thing is, he told us to tell you guys to lay it on him," center Jeff Faine said. "I'm not buying that. That's the easy way out for the players to do that, and it's not (right). Players make the plays; coaches call the plays. We have to execute those plays." This is a lot worse than anything Morris went through in a 3-13 first season because the Bucs were rebuilding and there were no expectations. It's a lot different now. The Bucs expected to qualify for the playoffs, but they're 4-5 and going to Green Bay next week. A loss there would be the fourth in a row. This type of spiral can lead to regime change. Sunday's announced crowd was 56,037, but I can tell you with relative certainty the actual attendance was a lot less. By the third quarter it looked like the kind of crowd you'd see for a bad high school game. Those who did remain occasionally summoned enough interest to boo what they were seeing. The head coach says to blame him. "It was my fault – my fault, guys," Morris said. If you're the Glazers and see a team cart-wheeling to the Earth in a fireball, crashing in front of an ocean of empty seats, in a market where the sports dollar is stretched thin, you may feel compelled to act. They weren't shy about firing Tony Dungy when things went sour. They didn't hesitate to fire Jon Gruden. I'm just sayin' … That's the type of door a game like this opened. If this doesn't get better, quickly, those fans who still care will demand a show of commitment from the owner. Morris promised a get-tough policy for the coming week. His lads can expect to practice in full pads with heavy hitting. It shouldn't be a problem, since they shouldn't be tuckered out from this game. "We missed a lot of tackles," said newcomer Albert Haynesworth, who, all things considered, seemed to play pretty well. "We shouldn't be missing tackles. So that's fair, it's definitely fair." He needs to do something. Morris is a bright, likeable man – perhaps too well liked. It's one thing to protect the players by asking for all the blame, but that's not the total answer. A little fear can be a good thing. His players may need to learn that because a game like this screams for change. One way or another, change is coming.