By Dianna Russini, Josh Kendall and Larry Holder
The Atlanta Falcons plan to hire Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as the team’s head coach, according to team sources.
Atlanta seemed like a destination for former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick after he interviewed for the job. But Atlanta is bringing Morris back to the division as he previously served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach from 2009 to 2011 and on Atlanta’s staff from 2015 to 2020.
The Falcons fired Arthur Smith right after the 2023 season ended after the team finished 7-10.
Morris went 17-31 in his three seasons with the Bucs. He served as defensive coordinator, and then interim coach with the Falcons in 2020 after the team fired Dan Quinn. Morris went 4-7 in the interim role in his final year with the Falcons, up to that point, before going to the Rams as defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
Not great HC résumé for Morris
Morris, 47, doesn’t bring a great résumé to the process. He was 17-31 in three seasons in Tampa Bay (2009-2011), which is worse than the record that got Arthur Smith fired, and he was 4-7 as the Falcons interim head coach after Quinn was fired in 2020.
What Morris does have is some experience, a glowing recommendation from his current boss (Rams coach Sean McVay) and a positive relationship with many people still around the Falcons organization.
As such, he’s a balance between someone like Belichick, who spent 24 years as the head coach in New England, and the other candidates who got two interviews in Atlanta — Bobby Slowik and Ejiro Evero. — Josh Kendall, Falcons beat writer
Belichick brought concerns
This is good news for many people in the Falcons building who were concerned that Belichick would get the job and either push them out of the building or usurp many of their responsibilities. It’s particularly good news for general manager Terry Fontenot, who can now be expected to retain control over the team’s personnel department.
“In no way, shape or form would (Fontenot’s) role be diminished,” team CEO Rich McKay said at the beginning of the coaching search. “His role has been to run the personnel department, and I think the record speaks for itself.”
Team owner Arthur Blank said earlier this month that Fontenot “has done an excellent job as our general manager.” — Kendall
Snead, McVay heavily laud Morris
Rams general manager Les Snead did his best to give Morris a glowing review at his end-of-season press conference.
“No. 1, I think we all know, (he’s a) great human being,” Snead said. “The guy is coded to respect everyone, to build a relationship with everyone no matter where you’re at in the organization. What’s awesome is, as he does that, you just see the respect flow back in his direction. He’s coded for that. It’s a superpower that I think would help any organization.”
McVay echoed Snead’s recommendation.
“But what I remember is as soon as we were able to get him on board, there was an immediate excitement from everybody that he touched in this building, whether it be players, coaches (or) staff,” McVay said. “And he’s got that magnetism about him where he is just saying something’s different about this guy and he’s really special.” — Kendall
(Photo: Tyler Schank / Getty Images)