The Buccaneers' decision makers had determined that a complete overhaul of their coaching staff was in order by the end of the regular season, and Josh Freeman's performance in Week 17 was yet another indication of just how far he and the team had fallen under Raheem Morris' watch.
Freeman threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the embarrassing 45-24 loss to the Falcons. His four turnovers in that one afternoon were almost half as many as he had during the entire 2010 season. Morris and his staff were fired the next day.
It capped off a season-long setback for Freeman, who will be learning a new offensive system heading into his fourth season.
After throwing 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions — exhibiting efficiency rarely seen from such a young quarterback — in only his second season, Freeman threw 16 TDs and was picked off 22 times (second-most in the league) in 2011.
The Bucs' coaching staff offered explanations for his struggles at times, but it couldn't solve them. We heard he had become overconfident and was forcing too many throws. The Bucs suggested he was throwing off his back foot too often and that defenses were doing a good job of cutting off running lanes for him. They failed to get Freeman back on track, and GM Mark Dominik and the Glazer family are now searching for a head coach who has a plan for developing the quarterback they still have a great deal of confidence in.
As Dominik and the Glazers look around at their competition within the NFC South, they see two playoff teams (Atlanta and New Orleans) and a team on the rise in Carolina. The Saints have one of the brighter offensive minds in the game leading them in Sean Payton. The Falcons and Panthers both have head coaches with defensive backgrounds but who brought strong, veteran offensive coordinators aboard with them.
Those are models the Bucs have in mind as they go through their own process. The only coaches known to have interviewed with the Bucs as of this writing are Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and former Texas A&M and Packers head coach Mike Sherman, but the field of interviewees is expected to grow, perhaps significantly, before the Bucs make a decision.
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