A Buccaneers' season that began with a promising 4-2 start quickly unraveled, and after losing 10 consecutive games to close out the 2011 campaign, head coach Raheem Morris was fired Monday.
The Bucs finished with records of 3-13, 10-6 and 4-12 in his three seasons at the helm, compiling a total record of 17-31 with no playoff appearances.
"We want to thank Coach Morris for all his hard work and dedication as head coach of the Buccaneers," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement.
Morris' entire coaching staff also has been dismissed, according to reports. Mark Dominik will remain as the team's general manager, however.
"I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the passion Coach Morris gave to our football team, but this change is one we felt was necessary," Dominik said.
The Bucs have scheduled a press conference at 3 p.m. ET.
The PFW Spin
As Morris acknowledged Monday, the Bucs had little choice but to make a move after such a massive collapse. The 10-game losing streak was the team's longest single-season losing streak since 1977. The Bucs weren't battling hard and losing close games every week — they were routinely blown out.
Injuries to some key players and a young, immature roster played a role in the Bucs' struggles, but the lack of effort down the stretch was an embarrassment and forced ownership's hand.
This is a team that entered the season very confident about the direction it was headed in and committed to a long-term approach to building the roster. The failures this season had to serve as a shock to the system.
In one of the league's most competitive divisions, the Bucs are the last-place team and will need a very strong offseason, starting with the head-coaching hire, to get out of the cellar. The Saints and Falcons are perennial playoff contenders and have stability throughout their organizations, and the Panthers are optimistic about the direction they're headed in after winning four of their final six games, including two wins over the Bucs.
QB Josh Freeman's regression this season should weigh heavily on the mind of Dominik as he sets out to find Morris' replacement. Freeman, who will turn 24 on Jan. 13, took a step back, but he's still considered one of the league's top young quarterbacks and the Bucs have to come up with a plan to help him reach the next level if they're going to compete in a division that's defined by great quarterback play.
One of the first requests Tampa Bay issues for an interview should be to the Panthers, where offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will be an in-demand candidate for teams with vacancies. Chudzinski pushed himself to the top of the list of up-and-coming assistants this season with the work he did with rookie QB Cam Newton. He has proven himself as a coordinator and tight ends coach and has familiarity with the Bucs having coached against them twice in recent weeks. He's also used to working with younger players, having worked at the college level at the University of Miami — the Bucs are one of the league's youngest teams.
Chudzinski's measured personality and style would be a stark contrast to the brash talk and outgoing demeanor we often saw from Morris. It could be a refreshing change-of-pace for the club. Hiring him would weaken a division rival looking to establish consistency on the staff around Newton.
Another strategy Dominik could consider is hiring an assistant with a defensive background and bringing in a strong, veteran offensive coordinator with head-coaching experience to serve on his staff, similar to what the Falcons did when they hired Mike Smith and brought in Mike Mularkey as his offensive coordinator. Bengals D-coordinator Mike Zimmer and Seahawks D-coordinator Gus Bradley, who served as an assistant for the Bucs from 2006-08 under Monte Kiffin, are two potential candidates to keep an eye on.
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