Alan Dell

Commentary | Time to clean house at One Buc Place

Someone needs to save Raheem Morris from himself and bring hope to Tampa Bay football fans.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach sounds desperate and at times delusional.

The Bucs were the state’s most disappointing team in 2011, and no one wants to see a sequel.

Let him go and in a few months he will be grateful.

Right now he is blinded like a kid in a candy store who has been given more than he can digest.

Morris is blaming the Bucs’ 4-11 record and nine-game losing streak on the team’s youth movement. It’s the only bargaining chip he has left, and he is embarrassing himself.

The franchise is already an embarrassment.

The Glazer family seems determined to spend as little as possible on the team, and a nuclear winter has set in, leaving the Bucs only a flicker of hope things will improve.

Bucs GM Mark Dominik is another learn-on-the fly employee who should be on the train out of town. But Morris is down there in the trenches and must go.

Consider:

n Morris’ team has become non-competitive, keeps repeating the same mistakes, doesn’t show the ability to adjust and can’t tackle.

n The Bucs’ starting cornerback, safety and outside linebacker lead the NFL in missed tackles at their respective positions.

n The Bucs’ tackling was bad last year when it ranked sixth with the most missed tackles. Now it’s the worst in the league with the team averaging more than 15.5 missed tackles per game.

Are you going to blame that on the lockout? Tackling and blocking are football fundamentals.

Pro Football Focus stats show Ronde Barber leads NFL cornerbacks with 22 missed tackles and 339 yards allowed after the catch; Tarnard Jackson leads NFL safeties with 21 missed tackles; and Quincy Block leads NFL outside linebackers with 16 missed tackles.

Corey Lynch ranks next to last among safeties who have significant playing time with only 15 solo tackles. Jackson has 32.

Marion Foster has 10 missed tackles to rank ninth among inside ’backers. Aqib Talib has allowed 17.1 yards per completion in his coverage area, the third-highest among cornerbacks.

The Bucs haven’t been able to stop some of the worst offenses in the league. Against Carolina last week, Tampa Bay got burned by the Panthers’ read-option offense and often looked confused.

The Bucs are last in the league in scoring defense and allowed at least 31 points in six of their last seven games.

Morris blames a lot of the Bucs’ woes on turnovers. He is right. They have too many, but the ineptness by the defense exacerbates the trouble. And they had a plus-9 turnover ratio last year and barely beat some of the worst teams in the league. Ownership knew it and looked the other way.

Morris was made an NFL head coach though he had no experience on the pro level as a coordinator.

In his only season as defensive coordinator at Kansas State, the Wildcats gave up 190 points in their final six games (33-point average). He made himself Bucs defensive coordinator in the final 11 games of ’09, and the unit has gotten progressively worse. This year, it has allowed 449 points (29.9 average) and is only 25 points shy of giving up more than the ’86 team, which was the franchise worst.

Morris is not solely responsible for the debacle at One Buc Place. Ownership’s penny pinching is a huge factor.

But the coach will rebound and be fine. The state of the franchise is more important.

Let him show prospective employers a resume that lists last year’s 10-6 record. It doesn’t matter that hidden under the camouflage was a weak schedule with five wins coming by seven points or fewer and a victory over a disinterested New Orleans that pulled its starters in the final regular season game.

Problems on offense also are troubling.

There is no depth at running back, an underachieving offensive line and a selfish tight end who might have sneaked his way into the quarterback’s head to the detriment of the team. Among quarterback Josh Freeman’s 19 interceptions, nine have come throwing to tight end Kellen Winslow.

Winslow leads all tight ends with nine targets getting picked off and his 3.6 yards-after-the-catch average is among the worst in the league.

We learned there is a reason LeGarrette Blount was on the waiver wire last year and receiver Mike Williams was available in the fourth round.

The Bucs’ 10-6 record last year was one of the biggest pieces of fool’s gold ever found on the shores of Tampa Bay. Management bought into it -- or at least publicly said as much.

Dominik sent a message that acquisition of free agents is tantamount to buying a piece of cancer.

He was riding high with Blount and Williams, and people were calling him a genius.

His luck ran run out, and the Bucs were exposed.

Staying out of the free agent market cost the Bucs a chance at talented players, including cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, now with San Francisco, and Jonathan Joseph, with Houston. Others who could’ve helped include Detroit middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who signed a reportedly modest one-year deal for $3.2 million. This list of “lost hopefuls” includes New Orleans all-purpose running back Darren Sproles.

All these guys are going to the playoffs, and the Bucs are going to excuses.

When Dominik was allowed to bring in players prior to last season, he acquired a substantial list of underachievers and doesn’t appear to be a person you hand your wallet to without trepidation. He gave Michael Clayton a hefty five-year deal prior to the 2009 season and then released him in September 2010.

Morris campaigned this week to keep his job, proclaiming you have to get worse before you get better.

But this bad?

To retain him is suicide. If the Bucs get off to a slow start next year, the desperation will get worse and the fan base will shrink even more.

One Buc Place needs to clean house.

The Glazers no longer owe former coach Jon Gruden money. They can bring in an experienced head coach, a better GM and get better players. Those people are out there.

If the Glazers don’t make changes it will be evident to all that it’s about money and they just don’t care.

Their silence will be deafening.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.

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