Martin Fennelly Columns
Rah expedition over as Bucs sink to new depths
ATLANTA - Next Coach Up. Is there anything else to say? Only that long-standing NFL tradition of never firing someone at halftime saved Raheem Morris on Sunday. There's no way to defend this finish, no way to come back from it. The Glazers, if they wanted to have a choice, and I think the Bucs owners did at one point, have absolutely none. The Rah expedition is over. It should be.The Bucs crossed the line into embarrassing a while back, but gave way to pathetic, then disgraceful during a strangely mesmerizing 42-point first half for the Atlanta Falcons – they had a 42-0 lead – one the way to a 10th straight Tampa Bay loss to end this season. Morris wouldn't discuss his future after the game, easy to understand. "It's not the time to talk about that stuff," he said. "That's for mental midgets." And I have my Mental Midget Decoder Ring to prove it. Hey, there's no need for new math here. No Bucs team ever gave up, rolled over and died like this – not the inaugural 1976 0-14 Bucs, not even the dreadful 2-14 1986 Bucs. Nothing is close to how the 2011 Bucs slammed their coffin. They didn't look like they belonged on a professional football field in the first half Sunday. I've never seen a team less competitive in its final five games, less prepared to play, with its coach's job on the line. Bucs players keep saying how much they love Coach Rah, then they go out and quit. Man, imagine what they would have done if they didn't love him. And Morris did little to help himself. Forget a rush defense – what the Bucs needed in the first half Sunday was a laugh track. What was your favorite Keystone Bucs moment? My winner was when Kellen Winslow and Kregg Lumpkin collided over the middle, Winslow flattened Lumpkin, Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton caught a Josh Freeman pass and ran in for 35-0. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Unrecoverable. Morris had no answers down the stretch - none. His troops didn't rally. They stopped listening. "A lot of it is on us," said Freeman, who was awful this season. Go up top, too. The Glazers decided to go cheap and moronically young and first-time general manager Mark Dominik decided to go along and they all got full of themselves after 10-6 and decided to get even younger – Why does "Youngry" just get to go on Raheem's tombstone? Alas, owners and GMs never fire themselves. But how can you say this team was still playing hard for the coach after these last five games? How? Maybe they didn't know how to do that, or how to dig out of holes, but isn't that coaching, too? At one point, Raheem, flailing about, tried to grab them back, sending Brian Price home – after all those times looking the other way when it came to his prized screw-up cornerback, Aqib Talib. I knew that would catch up with him. Does anyone out there really think Raheem Morris is the steadying hand to raise this sunken ship, to turn this trash heap back into a football team? Does anyone think that after being all over the road he can change himself that fundamentally, turn himself into some sort of lord of discipline? Look, I didn't expect the Bucs to make the playoffs. I figured maybe a step back with a tougher schedule, but not a step off the cliff. This Bucs defense gave up a team record 494 points this season. Let that number roll around your brain pan. This team made 19 turnovers last season. It made 40 this season. Raheem led the turnaround after his 3-13 rookie season, but this is different. Who doesn't know that this morning? A year ago, Freeman was the golden child. Sunday, he threw three more picks and fumbled on a sack. Actually, the Atlanta guy just took the ball away. He wanted it more. Everyone wanted it more than the Bucs these last five weeks. Yes, they scored 24 points, a tiny little uprising obtained mostly against yawning Falcons scrubs. But it couldn't hide the truth. The 42 consecutive points by Atlanta when it mattered, that's what mattered. The Bucs simply couldn't compete when they needed to compete – and neither could Raheem Morris. Next Coach Up.