2009 - A tough initial year for Raheem Morris
The collapse at the end of the 2008 season led to the seven-year reign of Jon Gruden as Buccaneer head coach reaching an end in early January 2009. GM Bruce Allen went at the same time whilst defensive co-ordinator Monte Kiffin had already announced his intention to join his son in coaching at the University of Tennessee. So it was all change at One Buc Place.
Raheem Morris had already been announced as being promoted from defensive backs coach to replace Monte, but after he returned from an unsuccessful interview for the Denver Broncos' head coaching job, the Glazers realised they had a future head coach right there in front of them and hence gave Morris his big shot.
Mark Dominik was promoted to replace Bruce Allen as GM and immediately walked into a firestorm as the Bucs announced the release of five aging veterans, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway, Cato June and Derrick Brooks. None would play any kind of serious role elsewhere in the NFL after leaving Tampa Bay but the furore over the action lingered for many months.
The draft brought a surprise in Josh Freeman being selected in the first round, the first quarterback taken so high since Trent Dilfer in 1994. A second round pick was traded to Cleveland for All-Pro tight end Kellen Winslow, but it was still a very young team that assembled at One Buc Place for training camp, the location having returned home after several years in Disney World.
Byron Leftwich won the starting role but after going 0-3 including a loss to the Giants in which it took the Bucs three quarters to even record a first down, he was replaced by second-year passer Josh Johnson, whilst the process to get Freeman ready to play was accelerated.
By the time the Buccaneers arrived in London for their International Series game against the Patriots, they were still winless and the record was 0-7 after the British Buc fans saw their team man-handled by the three-time Super Bowl champions.
After the bye week, Freeman took over as starter and in their throwback orange jerseys as the Bucs celebrated Lee Roy Selmon's induction into the Ring of Honor and the 1979 NFC Championship team, the first win came in an emotional 38-28 win over Green Bay.
The second half of the season brought only two more wins (one of which was against eventual Super Bowl champions New Orleans in the Super Dome), but the performances were a lot better after Raheem took over from Jim Bates as defensive co-ordinator. His offensive counterpart Jeff Jagodzinski had been fired before the season even began.
2009 saw the Bucs end with a 3-13 mark and the beginnings of fan apathy in the stands at Raymond James Stadium for the first time since it opened in 1998. But there were promising performances by some of the young players on the roster, and both Morris and Freeman gained the vital experience they will need in future years in their roles.