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Bucs' management lies low with Morris under scrutiny

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
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Posted Dec. 17, 2011 @ 4:56 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Updated Dec. 17, 2011 @ 11:57 p.m. ET

Buccaneers players have decided to speak out in defense of their head coach, Raheem Morris, who is rumored to be on the brink of losing his job.

They likely recognize, though, that wins — not supportive words from players — are what it will take to keep the heat on Morris from rising.

Earlier this week veteran TE Kellen Winslow cautioned against pointing fingers at Morris for the team's problems. He said firing Morris would "ruin the team" and that the Bucs are "playing for him," but those sentiments are ringing hollow in the ears of league observers in light of the team's losing streak, which has extended to eight games, and the often sloppy and undisciplined play that has been their trademark this season. They were recently embarrassed by the struggling Jaguars, a team that had made a head-coaching change of its own earlier this season, in a Week 14 blowout loss, ensuring the Bucs would follow up their 10-win performance in 2010 with a losing season in 2011. And Saturday night they fell behind Dallas 28-0 in the first half before falling 31-15 in another lackluster performance.

Morris' tight bonds with many of his players, his eternally optimistic outlook and brash talk were considered to be positives for the Bucs last season. This season, the substance of Morris' coaching — he also serves as the coordinator of the league's 29th-ranked defense — as well as his bold style, is being criticized. It appears he's struggling to get through to a young team lacking maturity.

Bucs GM Mark Dominik said the day after last season ended that in conversations, both public and private, he told folks around the league that Morris deserved to be named the NFL's Coach of the Year. Morris didn't receive that honor, but he did sign a new contract that extended through the 2012 season. Almost one year later, however, the Glazer family and Dominik, who is believed to be on firm footing within the organization after signing a four-year extension last offseason, have remained silent as Morris has faced questions about his future. There even was a report suggesting the Bucs considered firing Morris the day after the loss to Jacksonville.

Despite the potential consequences of their poor play over the past eight games, we're told there is still an upbeat and loose vibe coming from players in the Bucs' locker room, and it's no surprise. That's the way their head coach would want it to be.

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