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All eyes on Morris in stretch run

Posted Nov 15, 2011 by Ira Kaufman

Updated Nov 15, 2011 at 11:13 AM

BY IRA KAUFMAN

TAMPA—Rarely a week goes by without Raheem Morris citing his core beliefs.

Tampa Bay’s third-year head coach often recites his mantra—play fast, play smart, play consistent and play hard. But after Sunday’s 37-9 home loss to Houston, a lopsided setback that safety Sean Jones termed “embarrassing,’’ Morris couldn’t credibly stand at a podium and suggest the Bucs played hard.

A day later, he acknowledged some players loafed during Tampa Bay’s third consecutive loss, which dropped the Bucs to 4-5 heading into Sunday’s matchup against the unbeaten Packers.

On the surface, Morris should have some job security.

The Glazers have not proven to be impulsive owners when it comes to making a change at the top. Tony Dungy lasted six years, Jon Gruden walked the Buc sidelines for seven seasons, and Morris is only one year removed from a 10-6 finish.

But when it comes to lack of effort,  head coaches are vulnerable. You could argue some Bucs quit on Morris in the Houston game, and you can be sure the Glazers will be watching very carefully the rest of the way to gauge how hard the Bucs are playing.

Toward the end of his 3-13 first season, Morris could point with pride that the Bucs kept playing hard in December. Sunday’s debacle against the Texans might be an indication that his message is no longer getting through to the league’s youngest club.

You can argue that these final seven weeks will be a referendum on Morris’ skills as a motivator. If Morris ends up losing his job in January, it won’t be because the Bucs lost too often.

It will be because they didn’t try hard enough to win.

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