In 2010, Raheem Morris inspired the youngest team in the NFL to unexpected heights. As both the head coach and the acting defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris mastered the Xs and Os and the art of motivation, guiding his team to a 10-6 record and the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history.
For those reasons and more, Morris has been selected as one of 28 nominees for the inaugural Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award. The winner of the award will be announced at a press conference in Dallas during the week preceding Super Bowl XLV.
Morris, who became the eighth head coach in Buccaneers franchise history in January of 2009, has enjoyed the journey as much as the success his team has achieved. He was honored to be recognized for his efforts in a job that brings him so much personal satisfaction.
"I consider myself a teacher and this is the ultimate teaching position," said Morris. "You're able to help men mature both on the field and off the field, and you have an opportunity to bond guys together and form a brotherhood of men to go out and achieve the ultimate goal. You love the sport, you love the game, you love everything about it, and it's a great thing to be a part of."
The Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award was created to honor exemplary football coaches at all levels of the sport that display the integrity, achievement, and leadership demonstrated by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula. The coaches were nominated by NFL teams and by USA Football, the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels. Nominees are active football coaches at NFL, college, high school and youth levels. They were chosen for their character and integrity, inspirational leadership, commitment to the community, and on-field success.
The resulting field of nominees is an interesting combination of NFL head coaches such as Morris, Seattle's Pete Carroll and New Orleans' Sean Payton; NFL assistants such as Tennessee's Mike Heimerdinger; college coaches such as Wofford's Mike Ayers; high school coaches from around the country; and even a pair of youth football coaches from Boston and Chicago. Clearly, there are outstanding and inspirational coaches at all levels of football tutelage, many of whom make a difference on and off the field as Shula did with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions
"I am honored that the NFL has put this award in my name," said Shula. "I think it is great that we are recognizing coaches from all levels-high school, collegiate and professional. Congratulations to all of the nominees, and I look forward to presenting the first annual award at this year's Super Bowl in North Texas."
Morris has certainly made that sort of impact in his two years at the Buccaneers' helm, as well as six previous seasons as an assistant on Tampa Bay's staff (2002-05; 2007-08) and one year as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State (2006). The youngest head coach in the NFL, Morris engineered a seven-game turnaround from a 3-13 record in 2009 to this season's 10-6 mark. Expected by outside analysts to struggle in 2010, the young Bucs instead embraced Morris' "Race to 10" challenge and came within a fifth-level tiebreaker of qualifying for the playoffs.
The 2010 Buccaneers were also the first team since the merger in 1970 to start 10 rookies in a season and finish with a winning record, showcasing a quick transition into one of the most promising teams in the NFL. Morris has helped such young players as Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and Cody Grimm develop quickly into impact players in the NFL.
In the community, Morris has focused his efforts on education and promoting the importance of academics among Bay area youth. His "Be the Ultimate Character Student" (BUCS) initiative entered its second season, continuing to provide interactive podcast programming that taught students lessons on education and athletics as they relate to leadership, determination and character. Morris visited schools to help instill the importance of education in local youth and also presented "Bucs for Books" scholarships to five student-athletes attending Hillsborough County Title I high schools to help cover the cost of books for their four years of college. He also presented 10 local students with scholarships totaling $10,000 to assist with need-based funding for college.
Morris has participated in a myriad of events and appearances in his short tenure as head coach, helping to raise funds and awareness for cancer research, heart disease, and youth athletics, among other causes. He actively supports the charitable efforts and player foundations of current and former Buccaneers, and regularly volunteers for team community relations events and initiatives throughout the year.
The Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award selection panel is comprised of Coach Shula; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; former Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Indianapolis Colts Coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy; Former Raiders Coach and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame John Madden; General Raymond Odierno, Commander, United States Joint Forces Command; Sam Palmisano, Chairman, CEO and President of IBM; Former Secretary of State, Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution and faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business Condoleeza Rice; and Aaron Thomas, Athletic Director at Aplington-Parkersburg High School and son of the school's late football coach Ed Thomas.
The national Shula Award winner will also receive $25,000. To learn more about the award and see the entire list of 2010 nominees, click here to visit the award page on NFL.com.