The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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Almost, almost, almost for this year’s Bucs
Posted Jan 9, 2011 by Tom McEwen
Updated Jan 9, 2011 at 07:00 PM
These Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 2010 came up a game short, and much more than that in pride, and thus failing to make the NFL playoffs still going on, surely by now or realizing how very close they came to the big time again. I mean, this Buccaneer team that played so electrically so often, could have been in the big dance with but a few less malfunctioning plays on offense and defense. No one loss that will remain to haunt them as the years roll on as much as when a new running back hit the wrong hole on fourth down against Atlanta giving that game, and that eventual playoff spot, to those Falcons.
The truth is we can pick out any number of plays by individuals or by the team that went awry just enough to punish Tampa with the only defeat it needed to stay out of the playoffs. Yes, this Buccaneer team of 2010 was good enough to make the playoffs but in the end, not quite.
Coach Raheem Morris and his staff did a fine job with these Bucs most of the time and for that performance, Coach Morris this weekend was given a two-year extension on his contract for more money than you and I ever thought a feller coaching the Buccaneers would make. However, he still must earn that for he is being paid for the future. When Morris was named head coach by the Malcolm Glazer family, he was little known, he was an assistant coach known for having coached at Kansas State where he had an early contact with college quarterback Josh Freeman. Now these years later, the Glazers have decided to reward Morris further with a new contract and the decision to keep Freeman to work with him in the years ahead.
In the moves made this weekend by the Bucs owners, they have proven that they believe in Raheem Morris as head coach, in Freeman and the other players of whom they have such high regard and in this franchise that is Tampa Bay.
They will need some coddling and reassuring before the start of next season. Clearly, they feel the same way—they have no plans to sell or leave because they not only like Tampa Bay, but like Tampa Bay as a home to the Bucs, however, all saw in these last couple of games at home that the Bucs did not sell out. That only tells me that the non-sellouts by fans want to be treated well for all of the great years here and that they would like to see these Buccaneers do a shade better next year.
They can, they will, they should, after Coach Morris and his talent chief, Mark Dominik, draft well, trade well, and find sleepers to come on and be heroes as they did in this past season. I mean, the main reason for that is quarterback Josh Freeman, whose future surely looks limitless. He is of genuine star caliber, is 6-6 248, has a strong accurate arm and the smarts it takes to be the quarterback he wants to be and the people of this town want him to be. Freeman is only 23. He likes Tampa, he likes his bosses, he likes his teammates and those feelings are all mutual. This young quarterback with the gun for an arm, has remarkable accuracy, especially from passing on the run downfield. He is here because he and Coach Morris were both at Kansas State and were admiring of each other. He was a quick pick and Morris and his staff have made him better. Count on him to become an All-NFL Player before he leaves the game.
These Buccaneers will be pressed to do as well in the off season, patching their holes and strengthening them as they did last year. They were marvelous in their patchwork with draft picks and signing free agents. That has certainly proven to be a strength of Morris and Dominik and they have the full backing of ownership, not a bad feeling when their owners outside of pro football have so many varied financial ventures the world over, including ownership of the Manchester United Soccer Team Organization in the United Kingdom and other major investments.
The Buccaneers took a giant step this season ended. They were clearly better, more purposeful, and had set playoff goals for themselves this season. They came close, a few mistakes at the wrong time, or you Buc fans would be preparing for the NFL semifinals just ahead. Well, you are not. It is not a new feeling but you get the idea that this organization that seems to blend so well is in the blocks for another run next year.