Bucs coach Morris demotes Bates, takes over defensive play-calling

TAMPA, Fla. -- Raheem Morris is taking it upon himself to fix one of the NFL's worst defenses.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-year coach added defensive play-calling to his duties Tuesday, demoting veteran coordinator Jim Bates after Sunday's 38-7 loss to the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints dropped the team to 1-9 this season.

Leftwich out for the season

Byron Leftwich's season is over after the Bucs placed the QB on injured reserve Tuesday with a sore right elbow. Leftwich was the starter at the beginning of the season. **More ...**

"I feel like it's my responsibility. I feel like I have to do it," said Morris, who at 33 is the NFL's youngest coach. "I feel like it's what I'm supposed to do as a head coach."

The Bucs are 26th in the NFL in total defense, allowing just over 378 yards per game. They're last in rushing defense and have allowed 294 points, the second-highest total in the league.

It's the second major change that Morris and first-year general manager Mark Dominik have made with the coaching staff since late August. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was fired 10 days before the start of the season and replaced by quarterback coach Greg Olson.

"It's my call. It's my job to make sure we progress," said Morris, who took over for Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay ended last season with a four-game losing streak that cost the team a playoff berth following a 9-3 start. "We've got to go out, we've got to progress and try to get better these next six weeks. That's my focus."

It's not clear what Bates' duties will be for the rest of the season. The 17-year NFL assistant was hired to install a system to replace the Tampa 2 scheme that the Bucs ran for 13 seasons under former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Kiffin left after last season to join his son, Lane, at the University of Tennessee. The Bucs had a top-10 defense for most of Kiffin's tenure, but they have struggled making the transition to Bates' system.

Morris was promoted to head coach less than one month after Gruden announced that Morris would become defensive coordinator at the end of last season.

Although he could reintroduce some of the things the Bucs did well under Kiffin, Morris stopped short of saying the team will revert to exclusively playing Tampa 2.

"There's nothing wrong with the scheme. There's nothing wrong with the players," Morris said. "There won't be much of a change. There will be a little more of a Raheem Morris influence. ... We've got some coverage options that we can use. We have some other things that we can do. That's what we'll try to go out and do."

Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber stressed that Bates' system is still in place.

"It wasn't bad," Barber said. "We didn't play it well enough. And when you're struggling like we're struggling ... you've got to make some changes.

"There wasn't any player input," Barber said, denying that the players had asked for a change. "It wasn't a mass revolt against Jim Bates. That's conjecture and fun to write, but it's completely false."

Morris and the demoted defensive coordinator are still "working through" what Bates' duties will be for the rest of the season. Morris reiterated that the change wasn't related to player dissatisfaction.

"The players never quit on Jim Bates. ... There's no turncoat in this building," Morris said. "We've got to get better week to week. We played hard. We played fast. We played physical. ... We just didn't get better every week."

Barber rejected the notion that Tampa Bay's defense is regaining its "identity" with Morris taking over the play-calling.

"Let's not get confused. We're still trying to form an identity. There's not anything we've done particularly great to be able to say we have an identity," Barber said. "Our identity will be what it is from here on out. If it's good, it's good. If it's the way it's been, then there probably will be more changes."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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