Morris is Bucs' new coach; Dominik GM

TAMPA, Fla. -- Raheem Morris is young, energetic and confident he's the right choice as new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 32-year-old oozed enthusiasm during a news conference to introduce him as Jon Gruden's successor on Saturday, even if he did not offer specifics about his plan to help the Bucs climb back among the NFL's elite.

Morris paid homage to Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to its only Super Bowl title six years ago, and said his predecessor sent him a text message earlier in the day wishing him well in his new job.

"He told me to take this thing and run with it," Morris said. "That's what I planned on doing. That's what I want to do."

Morris takes over a team that won three division titles under Gruden but hasn't won a playoff game since capturing the franchise's only NFL championship in January 2003. The Gruden era ended with four consecutive losses that denied the Bucs a postseason spot following a 9-3 start.

"He's a leader, commands the respect of the team ... and his peers," team co-chairman Joel Glazer said.

"Raheem can relate to today's NFL player," Glazer added. "The game has changed a lot. It's always changing. ... If you don't adapt to those changes, you can't compete."

Although he has no previous head coaching experience, Morris doesn't believe owner Malcolm Glazer and sons are taking any more of a gamble on him as they did when Tampa Bay traded a pair of No. 1 draft picks, plus two No. 2's and $8 million cash, to obtain Gruden after the 2001 season.

The Bucs promoted Morris to defensive coordinator on Christmas Day, and he recently interviewed for the Denver Broncos coaching vacancy.

"The Glazers took a great risk trading away draft picks to hire Jon Gruden. Risk is involved in everything," Morris said. "We went out and won a Super Bowl that year, and I'm very proud of it. The Glazers are not afraid of risk, obviously. And, neither am I."

Nevertheless, Morris conceded that even he's a little suprised by his rapid ascension, especially considering he was defensive backs coach less than a month ago when it looked as if the Bucs probably would get into the playoffs, thus likely saving Gruden's job.

"It's really hard to even imagine right now. It's all happened so fast," Morris said.

Mark Dominik, who has been with the team since 1995, takes over as general manager, replacing Bruce Allen, who also was fired Friday.

"Both of these men have Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their DNA. ... They're youthful and energetic, and both rode a clear and steady path from the bottom to the top," Glazer said during a news conference at the team's headquarters.

"Mark understands everything it takes to be a champion. No one knows this organization's roots and history better."

Morris, a former Hofstra player and assistant coach, has been with the Bucs for six seasons over two stints.

He initially joined Gruden's staff as defensive quality control coach for the 2002 Super Bowl run and was assistant defensive backs coach for two seasons before spending 2006 as defensive coordinator at Kansas State.

He and former Bucs assistant Mike Tomlin, now the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, helped develop one of the top secondaries in the NFL. Both accepted other jobs after Tampa Bay led the league in total defense in 2005, and Gruden lured Morris back when the Bucs dropped to 19th against the pass the following season.

"He's one of the more young and dynamic coaches in the league," running back Earnest Graham said. "He's a guy that everyone in the locker room has looked up to for a long time for the way he knows this game, and for the way he approaches this game."

The 37-year-old Dominik joined the Bucs in 1995 and served in a number of personnel and scouting positions under former general manager Rich McKay before becoming director of pro personnel eight years ago.

Morris said he and the new GM have had a good relationship ever since he joined the team and began picking Dominik's brain about what kind of players Tampa Bay was interested in taking in the draft.

"We've been doing this for a long time. We just didn't know it," Morris said. "We're going to make the decisions together. We, we, we. That's how we do it."