Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Atlanta Falcons Name Raheem Morris as New Head Coach

HomeSports NewsThe Atlanta Falcons Name Raheem Morris as New Head Coach

The Atlanta Falcons have hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as their new head coach, the team announced on Thursday evening. This marks a return to Atlanta for Morris, who served as the Falcons’ interim head coach in 2020 after Dan Quinn was fired.

Morris will now get a second chance to lead the Falcons full-time, becoming the first Black head coach in the history of the franchise. He brings extensive NFL coaching experience to the role, including three seasons leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-2011.

In a statement, Falcons owner Arthur Blank called the hiring “a historic day for the Atlanta Falcons.” He praised Morris’ “26 years of experience in the NFL,” including the last three with the Rams, which Blank said gave Morris “an enhanced perspective” and helped him become “an even more prepared coach.

The 47-year-old Morris has spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator for the Rams, helping lead the team to a Super Bowl title in 2021. He also went 17-31 in his previous stint as a head coach with the Buccaneers.

With the Falcons, Morris replaces Arthur Smith, who was fired after three straight 7-10 seasons. Morris will look to revitalize a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2017. He will work closely with general manager Terry Fontenot as they map out a plan to rebuild the roster.

Morris’ Return Caps Extensive Coaching Search

The hiring of Morris caps an extensive search by the Falcons that included an interview with legendary ex-New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

After Belichick and the Falcons mutually agreed to stop pursuing a partnership, the team cast a wide net in searching for a new leader. More than a dozen candidates were interviewed over the past few weeks.

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Ultimately, Morris emerged as the top choice given his familiarity with the franchise, his prior experience as a head coach, and his successful recent track record with the Rams.

The Falcons also announced a restructuring of their football operations, with Morris and Fontenot now reporting directly to Blank rather than CEO Rich McKay. McKay will remain in his current role overseeing the team’s business interests and serving on the NFL’s competition committee.

Morris Excited to Return to Atlanta

In his own statement, Morris said he was “overjoyed” by the opportunity to return to Atlanta as head coach.

We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans,” Morris said. “I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me.”

Morris also made sure to thank the Rams, calling them a “first-class organization all around.” He said he loved his time in Los Angeles and working with head coach Sean McVay and GM Les Snead.

With the Falcons, Morris will look to build on the improvements made by the defense in 2022 under coordinator Dean Pees. The unit jumped to 11th in total defense compared to 27th the prior season.

The offense remains a talented but unproven group, loaded with former first-round picks like running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London, and tight end Kyle Pitts. Morris and Fontenot will have to make a decision at quarterback, with neither Desmond Ridder nor Taylor Heinicke looking like long-term answers.

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Morris Brings Wealth of NFL Experience

Morris has been coaching in the NFL since 2002, when he joined the Buccaneers as a defensive quality control coach. He worked his way up to become the team’s head coach in 2009 at just 32 years old.

During his three seasons at the helm in Tampa Bay, Morris went 17-31. While the on-field results were mixed, he earned praise for developing young players and building a strong locker room culture.

After being fired by the Buccaneers, Morris spent 2012-2013 as the defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins under head coaches Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden.

He then reunited with the Falcons in 2015 when Quinn brought him on staff as assistant head coach and defensive passing game coordinator. Morris spent six seasons in Atlanta before leaving for the Rams coordinator job.

In addition to his NFL experience, Morris also coached at the collegiate level early in his career. He was a graduate assistant at Hofstra University in 1998 and the defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006.

What Morris Brings to the Falcons

With Morris returning to Atlanta as head coach, the Falcons are betting on his prior relationship with the team and knowledge of the organization being an asset.

Rather than cleaning house, the Falcons chose continuity and familiarity with Morris. He already has experience working with many current Falcons staffers from his previous stint.

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Morris is known for his lively personality, ability to motivate players, and strengths as a teacher. His defenses have employed aggressive, attacking schemes aimed at forcing turnovers.

The hope will be that Morris can infuse the Falcons with the same upbeat, high-energy approach he took in Tampa Bay. His challenge will be to translate that into winning results the second time around as a head coach.

On the defensive side, Morris figures to keep a similar system in place given the unit’s improvement last season. His biggest mark will need to come in supporting Fontenot in making critical personnel decisions.

With a 4-13 record last season, the Falcons have many needs across the roster. Morris and Fontenot will have to nail this offseason to set the team up for future success.

The most pressing question is at quarterback, where the Falcons need to find their franchise centerpiece. But the team also has holes at edge rusher, left guard, tight end, and in the secondary.

If Morris can maximize the existing talent while rebuilding problem areas, the Falcons should be able to make progress in the NFC South. With Tom Brady retiring from the division-rival Buccaneers, the door could be open for Atlanta to get back in contention.

Falcons fans will be eager to see if Morris‘ second stint as head coach goes better than his first. For a franchise seeking its first Super Bowl title, the hope is that his experience and upbeat style can set the team on a winning course once again.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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