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Bucs coach Raheem Morris gets his man

TAMPA

Raheem Morris got his man. Smiles all around, he said. Hugs between the first-year head coach and the first-year general manager after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up two spots Saturday to draft a quarterback.

A quarterback?

A franchise quarterback.

“When you draft a quarterback in the first round, you’re making a pretty bold statement,” Morris said. “He’s the long-term decision. He’s the direction we’re going. We got a big kid in here with a positive attitude that you guys are all going to love.”

The new direction is Josh Freeman, the junior from Kansas State. The Bucs traded first round picks with the Browns, moving up to 17 to grab the kid with the big body and big arm.

And big hopes.

Morris is the 32-year-old up-and-comer promoted from defensive coordinator in January to replace Jon Gruden and pump some excitement back into a franchise.

Morris whose natural state is excitement, was even more so Saturday evening.

“We’re fired up, man,” he said. “There won’t be no pouting in this building here at One Buc Place.”

It’s easy to see why the Morris would want Freeman. The two worked together for a year when Morris was the defensive coordinator and Freeman a freshman quarterback at Kansas State.

Freeman is big enough to stand in against a blitz and mobile enough to move around the pocket.

Morris said Freeman has that something that can’t be taught: presence.

“You felt like you had a chance to win with this guy leading you,” Morris said.

Freeman better bring that quality to Tampa Bay.

The joke was former coach Jon Gruden liked to date quarterbacks, not marry them. Morris said he and Freeman are married.

No kidding.

Their careers will be defined by Freeman.

If Freeman succeeds, if he becomes everything Morris said he will be — a franchise quarterback — than Morris will become what the Bucs expect him to be — the next Mike Tomlin.

If Freeman fails. If injuries get to him. If the Bucs don’t surround him with enough playmakers. If he is nothing more than a good college quarterback inside an NFL body, than Morris fails as a head coach.

That’s how much of a risk Morris and the Bucs took Saturday.

The Bucs could use outside linebackers and there were a few good ones available at 17.

The Bucs could use defensive lineman and there were a few good ones available at 17.

They went with a quarterback who has been trading text messages and phone calls with Morris since they met at K-State.

Freeman said it was a good pick.

He said it would have been a good pick had the Lions taken him with the first pick in the draft or if the Jets tabbed him with the fifth. Not that it matters, but Freeman had himself ahead of Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez in his own mock draft.

“If I had a pick, I’d pick myself,” Freeman said.

It’s good to have confidence. It’s even better to have success.

Freeman will be the Bucs quarterback at some point next season. You don’t really think Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown will keep Freeman on the bench this season, do you?

You don’t stick your neck out on a pick like this and not play him. Morris has to prove he can win now. Might as well do it with the franchise quarterback.

There was no pouting at One Buc Place on Saturday. Morris got his man. He found the future.

“The owners are very excited,” Morris said.

“They haven’t had an opportunity to be this excited in 15 years. They’re really pumped up. They’ve got a chance for a franchise quarterback. That’s our quarterback.”

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