And that’s all she wrote.
The Bucs 2011 season as an exercise in futility could be summarized by their last offensive play against the Atlanta Falcons yesterday: Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman throwing an interception, killing their final scoring drive of the year.
That final play cemented the Bucs’ 10th consecutive loss on the season and bringing their final record to 4-12. To put the year into perspective, one has to go all the way back to 1977, the second season of the Bucs’ existence, to find such a losing streak. That is how bad and how far Tampa fell this year.
There’s no point rehashing the game, or recapping any highlights. They were few, and did little if anything to alleviate the bitter taste of yet another wasted year of Tampa Bay Buccaneer football.
I held off writing this final Bucs Blog of the season until I received the one piece of news I was expecting to get today: the Bucs owners and general manager fired head coach Raheem Morris. As I said earlier, this development carried with it all the suspense and unpredictability of a typical Ghost Hunters episode. As for Morris being shown the door, it’s disappointing yet understandable. Disappointing, because I really liked what he brought to the team last year, defying expectations and bringing the Bucs to the threshold of the playoffs when no one expected them even to have anything less than an embarrassing season. On the other hand, it was understandable because that anticipated train wreck of a season just seemed to hold itself back a year.
As head coach, the buck (no pun intended) did stop with Morris, but it’d be a mistake to lay all of the blame at his feet. After all, he’s not the one who went out there and threw the interceptions, or failed to stop a rush or pass, or coughed up the ball, or committed any of the ridiculous or even unforgivable mistakes which allowed Tampa’s defense to give up 494 points on the season….itself a franchise record. That’s right; even in their worst years from the 70s and 80s, the Bucs didn’t surrender as many points as they did this season. Of course, Morris acted as the team’s defensive coordinator. Go figure.
In addition to Morris, the entire coaching staff also was fired. I guess you could say that means the Bucs front office is serious about making some big changes. Good. The play-calling offered up by offensive coordinator Greg Olson was horrific, reactionary and short-sighted…everything that spells success in the NFL, right?
Along with the coaching staff overhaul, something else big was missing this year: Leadership in the locker room. You can say that this, too, is a byproduct of poor coaching, but when you get down to brass tacks, the people putting on the pads are paid an assload of money to go out there and execute. The quarterback is often looked to as the defacto leader of any football team, but the simple truth is that Josh Freeman is not yet ready to assume that responsibility. Does he have the potential to be that leader? Absolutely. Does he need help? Absolutely, both on and off the field. Hopefully, those needs will be addressed in the off-season.
And so another football season draws to a close, taking with it the hopes and dreams of many a long-suffering Buccaneer fan and supporter. Despite my obvious disappointment, I’ll be right back here next fall with a fresh attitude, flag flying, sabres sharpened and jersey donned, all ready to cheer on my Pewter Pirates.