Raheem Morris talks faster than a speeding bullet.
Despite the pace, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach has never tripped over his own words.
Unless it was intentional. Unless it was done with a purpose. Unless there was a hidden agenda only he can see.
That is until Sunday’s 18-17 win over St. Louis.
When he called his 4-2 Bucs the best team in the NFC, his words traveled across the country faster than if they were carried by Superman himself.
It generated an avalanche of responses, including one from NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders, who called Morris out of his mind. The former defensive back noted those are grown men in the Bucs locker-room not swayed by verbal hyperbole.
But Morris did not heed the stop signs. He pushed the pedal to the medal.
He repeated his words again Monday after getting time to sleep on it all. He didn’t cave into warnings the men in the white suits were coming to get him.
In so many words, he was saying the court of public opinion is blind. It didn’t understand what he is trying to do for a team that won three games last year and can still feel the Grim Reaper hanging outside the club house door despite four victories.
The Bucs embark on a two game road trip and play four of their next five away from Raymond James Stadium.
That’s a gruesome reality that can overwhelm a young team, and Morris may have felt a need to generate a diversion.
Make the media Public Enemy No. 1 and you can feel the adrenalin surging. Anger replaces fear. Vengeance erases doubt.
Right now the Bucs are a nice story, but they haven’t earned Cinderella’s Slipper yet.
They are the best kept secret in the NFL even if Morris might have awoken everyone with his bold proclamation, and he apparently believes it was worth the risk.
Tampa Bay has yet to beat a team with a winning record and its four victims are a combined 8-18. The Bucs are tied for next to last in the NFL in least amount of points scored with 98 ahead of only the Carolina Panthers (75) and have allowed 128, which puts them at a minus 30 differential.
The Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants are 5-2, which is supposed to be better than 4-2 the way it was taught to us in elementary school. There are four teams in the NFC with two losses and six with three, so there is a lot of room for jockeying.
The football coach has taken a beating in the media following his proclamation, which is what he apparently wanted.
It is sure to instill motivation in his players who see a coach willing to walk the plank to get them respectability. It might be enough to give them a swagger to take on the road.
Still the Bucs are 31st in the NFL against the run, 22nd in total defense and 23rd in total offense and suffered a 25-point loss to the New Orleans Saints less than two weeks ago.
But there is a key.
There are no good teams in the NFC. At least none that strike you as one that can run away from the pack especially with Drew Brees throwing passes to the guys in the wrong uniform.
There is a consensus that six of the NFL’s best teams play in the AFC (Baltimore, Indianapolis, New England, New York, Pittsburgh and Tennessee) and they are 8-0 against NFC teams.
So the Bucs are not the best team in the NFC; maybe not even a good team. But you might not have to be good to make the playoffs out of the NFC.
Among their 10 remaining games, the Bucs only have three that would fall into the winnable category in Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit. There is 3-3 Arizona this Sunday and then six teams with winning records, including 5-2 Atlanta twice.
The Bucs could turn into a sub .500 team pretty quick, but the best thing going for Morris is no one will blame him. He has already exceeded expectations. So he can say what he wants.
Alan Dell, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.