THE BRANCH – From most accounts, the Tampa Bay situation is hot mess.
Head coach Raheem Morris essentially fired his defensive coordinator, Jim Bates, last Monday. Former Falcons assistant Jeff Jagodzinski, the offensive coordinator, was fired earlier one day before the final preseason game.
It looks like Morris, 33, is trying to do too much or he either doesn’t trust his assistants.
Despite their leadership issues, the Falcons consider the 1-9 Buccaneers a dangerous team.
“I don’t think the record indicates what type of football team they are,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I think they are very talented on both sides of the ball. They have the strongest special team units that we are going to face all year long.”
The Bucs are 29th in total offense (270.5 yards per game), 32nd against the rush (168.9 yards per game and 31st in points allowed (29.4).
“In this league you can’t take anybody for granted,” Smith said. “Every week is a battle. They are going to come in here, they are a division opponent and they are going to be well prepared.”
Pro Bowl returner Clifton Smith is a threat.
“He’s very dangerous,” Smith said. “He’s a guy when he gets the ball in his hands he can take it the distance. He definitely merits the Pro Bowl selection he got last year.”
Rookie Josh Freeman became the second-youngest quarterback to win his first start since 1970, when he beat Green Bay in Week 9.
“Freeman is coming along well,” Smith said. “He’s a big, strong kid who can make all of throws. The other thing that he adds is a dimension running the ball. He’s a guy that has taken off in scramble situations and has gotten some yards fro them.”
• Buccaneers QB Byron Leftwich spent the 2007 season with the Atlanta Falcons.
• Bucs coach Jim Bates worked as the defensive coordinator for the Falcons in 1994.
• Bucs offensive line coach Pete Mangurian worked on the Atlanta Falcons coaching
staff as the offensive line coach (2001-02) and offensive coordinator (2003).
• Atlanta president Rich McKay served as Tampa Bay’s general manager for nine
seasons and built the Buccaneers Super Bowl XXXVII championship team.
• Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey served as the Buccaneers quality
control coach in 1994 and tight ends coach in 1995.
• Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton worked in the same capacity for the Bucs in 1991.
• Falcons director of athletic performance Jeff Fish was a strength and conditioning intern for Tampa Bay in 1997.
• Bucs DE Kyle Moore attended Houston County High School in Warner Robins,
Georgia and was a member of the AJC’s Super Southern 100 squad.
• Tampa Bay long-snapper Andrew Economos competed for Georgia Tech and was a three-year
letterman in football, basketball and baseball at Marist High School in Atlanta.
• Falcons WR Michael Jenkins was born in Tampa, Florida.
• Falcons LB Stephen Nicholas competed for South Florida located in Tampa, FL.