In what was one of the worst collapses in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from a youngry up and coming contender to arguably the worst team in the NFL in the span of 10 games.
Not only were the Bucs beaten but they were humiliated down the stretch, blown out in six of their last eight games and surrendering 35 or more points in seven of their 12 losses.
For a coach who prided himself of defense, it was simply unacceptable.
With that in mind, according to the team's official twitter feed, the Glazers decided to part ways with their young head coach, Raheem Morris. Morris finished with a 17-31 record (.354 winning percentage).
“We want to thank Coach Morris for all his hard work and dedication as head coach of the Buccaneers,” said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer.
“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,” Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik said.
The team has scheduled a 3:00 p.m. news conference at One Buccaneer Place, which will be broadcast live on Buccaneers.com.
Dominik will be retained as General Manager.
It was an amazing fall for Morris, who was a coach of the year candidate after the Buccaneers shocked the league with a dramatic 7 game turnaround and a 10-6 record. Had the Bucs not been upset in overtime by the Lions in late December, it would have been Tampa Bay qualifying for the playoffs and not the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
The Bucs seemed to have all the pieces to make a significant run at the NFC South this season. Freeman looked like the real deal and he had weapons with him in LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams. The Bucs drafted heavily on defensive line the past two drafts and appeared poised to finally put some heat on the opposing quarterback.
The Bucs raced to a 4-2 start that included huge wins over division rivals New Orleans and Atlanta. As the headed to London to face the Chicago Bears, the Bucs looked to be taking the next step.
Instead, Tampa Bay lost veteran Earnest Graham in the backfield and Gerald McCoy in the center of the defense. It was the beginning of a collapse that boggles the mind.
As the losses mounted, Freeman lost confidence and began making bad decisions. It resulted in him finishing the season with an abysmal 16-to-22 touchdown to interception ratio (only Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick threw more picks than Freeman this season).
LeGarrette Blount disappeared from the offense while Mike Williams suffered from drops and an inability to make the big play (his touchdowns dropped from 11 in 2010 to just 3 this season).
Defensively, it couldn't get any worse for the Buccaneers. They surrendered a franchise record 494 points, even giving up 40-burgers to some of the worst offenses in the league.
Several times, players on both sides of the ball were accused of quitting or not playing hard. They were among the league leaders in penalties as well.
The bottom line was this team quit on their coach - they stopped listening to him. While they all professed their love for their coach, their play on Sunday showed what they really thought of him.
It truly did force the Glazers' hand.
So where does Tampa Bay go from here?
Well, Freeman needs to be salvaged or this franchise could be set back a decade. The word from inside One Buc Palace is that the front office do still have faith in Freeman and believe he is a franchise quarterback. At just the age of 23, he's already put up a Pro Bowl caliber season and has shown the ability to be a clutch performer late in games.
So Freeman should and will be the focus when the team decides who will be the next head coach.
Bill Cowher - Forget it, he's not coming.
Jon Gruden - Some fans have longed for the return of Chucky on the Tampa Bay sideline, but Gruden has committed to ESPN for yet another season. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time Gru has talked out of both sides of his mouth. Still, to rehire Gruden just doesn't fit what this franchise needs right now - and the hysteria it would cause in the area would be unbelievable. No, I just can't see it happening.
Jeff Fisher - While I'm personally not a fan of Fisher, this one has legs simply because of proximity. Fisher was seen in the Bucs' hotel room on Saturday night. Of course, Fisher just happened to be in Atlanta because his son was playing in a Bowl game. Check out Bucs Nation's breakdown of Fisher in their Franchise Analysis. Fisher won a lot of games with another big armed, mobile quarterback named Steve McNair.
Brian Billick - A Super Bowl winning coach with an offensive pedigree and an appreciation for a great defense. Billick is my personal favorite of the retreads.
Steve Mariucci - The Glazers have gone after him before but I just don't see Mooch returning to coaching after his disaster in Detroit. I don't blame Mooch for that debacle - after all - who could win with Matt Millen as your GM? Still, I think he loves his job at NFL Network too much to return to the sidelines.
Eric Mangini - God, please...no.
This year's casualties: Todd Haley/Norv Turner/Steve Spagnuolo/Jack Del Rio/Tony Sparano - As an OC/DC combo, sure - as head coach? Never.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the hot coordinators for 2012 include:
Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski - Chud has done wonders with Cam Newton and his unique approach to offense has fielded one the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. If the focus truly is on Freeman, Chud could be a guy who gets the best out of Number Five. Check out the breakdown on Chudzinski by Bucs Nation.
Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen - He's done wonders with the Broncos defense despite living in the shadow of Tebow Time.
Packers Assistant Head Coach Winston Moss - A name recognizable to many old time Bucs fans, Moss has been Mike McCarthy's right hand man.
Bengals Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer - Zim is well liked and respected by his players but he's not a Raheem clone. His defenses have been some of the best in football without big name talent. Many believe this might be his time.
Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey - Has molded Matt Ryan into a top flight quarterback. He's been a head coach in the league (formerly with the Buffalo Bills). It might be time for him to get another shot.
Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden - He's done wonders with rookie Andy Dalton, he's a former Bucs assistant and he has that Gruden name. Still, you have to wonder if there's some bad blood over what happened with his brother.
I really think the Glazers will look for a coach with at least some Coordinator experience in the NFL, however there's one position coach that I have an interest in.
Packers QB Coach Tom Clements - He's already being interviewed for the Penn State gig but Clements has molded Aaron Rodgers into one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He also helped Brett Favre drop his interception rate to levels the team could endure. If Matt Flynn's six touchdown performance is any indication - it's not just because Rodgers and Favre have talent. He's been a coordinator in the league, as offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, the team increased their point total by 152 points over the previous season on a team led by quarterback Kelly Holcomb.
Nick Saban, Head coach Alabama - Saban's done the NFL and it didn't end well.
Les Miles, Head Coach LSU - He's had some tremendous teams at LSU but will it work with pros?
Steve Spurrier, Head Coach South Carolina - The Glazers went after the old ball coach once...but we all know how his offense performed in the NFL as the Redskins coach.
Chris Petersen, Head Coach Boise State - Could Petersen be the first spread-option coach to make the jump to the NFL? He's definitely done wonders with the Broncos.
Mike Sherman, Former Head Coach Texas A&M - Sherman had an outstanding record as head coach of the Packers before one bad season saw his dismissal. Sherman presided over four double digit winning seasons with the Pack, winning three division titles in six years and taking the Pack to the playoffs four times in his six years. He was recently ousted at Texas A&M after four years, going 25-25.
Chip Kelly, Head Coach Oregon - Regarded as one of the most innovative minds in college football, Kelly might be ready to try his hand at the Pro game.
Whomever the Glazers choose, there's going to be a lot of work to be done to bring this football team back to respectability.