Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris decided the Buccaneers needed a direction. And for the first time since the 1994 season, that direction won’t involve LB Derrick Brooks.
Brooks, the defensive captain and face of the Tampa Bay franchise, was released Wednesday, as were RB Warrick Dunn, LB Cato June and WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard.
Dominik, the Bucs’ new general manager, and Morris, the new head coach, addressed the media during an afternoon press conference at One Buc Place and said the decision wasn’t easy.
“We let go of five very special people within the organization,” Dominik said.
Said Morris, who was promoted from defensive assistant to defensive coordinator to head coach in a one-month span: “I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for these players.”
Brooks was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick in 1995 out of Florida State and immediately made an impact. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and started every game for Tampa Bay from 1996 to 2008. He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls and, in the 2002 season, helped the Bucs win their first Super Bowl championship while being selected the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“I thought Derrick was a consummate professional (in dealing with his release),” Dominik said. ” … Derrick obviously is one of the greatest Bucs of all time.
“Again, these decisions are tough to make. … But this is the decision we wanted to make and the direction we wanted to go.”
Dominik and Morris repeatedly denied that their decision, which they said they carefully examined throughout the NFL Scouting Combine, was motivated by finances. They also said they believe in their younger players at linebacker, running back and wide receiver.
“It’s a direction,” Dominik said. “I’m not a big fan of the rebuilding word, but in a way, that’s what we did.”