At a time when many (like us) are questioning whether Browns coach Eric Mangini might lose his players by privately fining them, we think it’s fair to wonder whether Bucs coach Raheem Morris might lose his players by publicly calling them out.
Most noticeably, Morris seemingly questioned the desire of tight end Kellen Winslow on a third-down play from the first drive of Sunday’s 24-0 loss to the Giants.
On a play that needed five yards for a first down, Winslow (per the Tampa Tribune) caught the ball short of the sticks, moved horizontally and then reached the ball out with his arm.
Winslow came up a yard short.
Morris, on Monday, let his disappointment with Winslow’s effort be known.
“Should he have squared his shoulders and tried to get the first
down?” Morris said. “Yes. Yes. He has to. We all do. We all have to have that
Winslow wasn’t the only one who was called out.
“I think Aqib Talib should have picked off that pass in the first drive,” Morris added. “Kellen Winslow should have gotten the first down on that third-and-5. Jeremy Zuttah shouldn’t have jumped offsides on the opening drive.
“I hate to call out names, but that’s the reality of what we do. You have to see that stuff.”
Our guess is that Morris, whose inexperience shows most clearly in his lack of control over his words spoken to the press, hastily threw Talib and Zuttah under the bus after realizing that perhaps Winslow shouldn’t have been singled out.
Indeed, it wouldn’t have been the first time that Morris had choice words for Winslow and Winslow alone. In early August, Morris said that Winslow is “too up and down emotonally.”
Still, it was the Bucs who sent a second-round pick to the Browns for Winslow, and it was the Bucs who gave him a big contract with a lot of guaranteed money. It’s not as if Winslow had been a model citizen (or a stoic) during the first five years of his career, so the Buccaneers arguably knew or should have known what they were getting themselves into.
They also should have known that Morris wasn’t ready to face the glare that goes along with being the head coach. Apart from calling out players, he has contradicted himself several times regarding the all-important quarterback position.
Most recently, Morris benched Byron Leftwich a day after saying he wouldn’t.
And let’s not forget the decision to hire — and then fire less than two weeks before the start of the season — an offensive coordinator who was essentially drawing up plays in the dirt with bottle caps and cigarette butts.
Though some might applaud Morris for his candor, the head coach is the shepherd of the team, and of the fan base. So the shepherd needs to be resolute, and he must exude confidence.
To date, Morris has failed in that regard. And it shows not only in the results, but also in the general funk into which the franchise quickly has fallen.
So it’s fitting that the Bucs will be donning the throwback uniforms later this year. For the first time since the red-and-pewter revolution of 1997, the 2009 version of the team is playing like the ones that inhabited the white, yellow, and orange duds for two decades.