When the Atlanta Falcons originally signed Raheem Morris as their new head coach, the reaction was tepid within the fan base. Nationally, everyone loved it because Morris has earned this opportunity after years of working as an assistant and learning the best way to act as a head coach his second time around. In Atlanta, the team needed someone who has the ability to connect to players, run the team like a CEO-style head coach and is one of the better teachers out there. Raheem Morris is that guy. He's the right guy, at the right time, for a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs in nearly a decade. And this time around as a head coach, he isn't being forced into the role due to politics or being given a front office who's goal is to dismantle a good roster.
A real-life Ted Lasso, but actually qualified
"There are very few people that were born to be a captain or leader or a teacher. He's one that was."- Former Atlanta HC Dan Quinn to the AJC
Ted Lasso has always been someone who intrigued as an archetype for a head coach in the NFL. Someone who is effusively positive, understands his players, holds them to the highest standards and wants to make them the best versions of themselves. Raheem Morris is this kind of coach to the tee. Every single player that has ever been around Morris says nothing but great things about him. Every single coach who has worked with Morris has come out and said he's more than deserving of the opportunity. Just listen to Robert Alford in his interview with Fox 5 Atlanta's Justin Felder in the clip below:
One piece to the Ted Lasso comparison is the unwavering positivity that Lasso has for life. The kind of positivity that coach Morris seems to share according to those around him. Rams head coach Sean McVay has been campaigning for Raheem Morris to have a head coaching job for years, and a lot of that has to do with Morris' personality. McVay was quoted by The Athletic's Josh Kendall (article sourced later for Rams GM Les Snead's quote as well):
"He always had such a unique way about leading. The guy has never had a bad day in his life, and then you get around him and you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, you can’t be like this all the time.’ And you’re like, ‘He really is like this all the time.’ He’s just got such great energy that’s so authentic."- Rams HC Sean McVay to the Athletic
If that doesn't sound like the effusive Ted Lasso, no idea who that actually sounds like. That kind of positivity after dealing with Arthur Smith's sarcastic, abrasive at times personality will feel refreshing. Unlike Ted Lasso, who was barely qualified for a job even as a D-1 college coach in football but was coaching premiere league soccer, Morris is almost over-qualified for the job in Atlanta. Morris has been in the coaching profession for 26 years. He's coached both sides of the ball through his stays at Washington, Tampa Bay, previous time in Atlanta and in Los Angeles. He started as a defensive backs coach, but later coached wide receivers, has been a defensive passing game coordinator and a defensive coordinator. He also had a stint as a head coach in the past, but that might be held against him, when it shouldn't.
Tampa Bay history shouldn't be held against him
The big drawback to Raheem Morris as a head coach was his record as a head coach in Tampa Bay and as an interim head coach for the Falcons in 2020. While those records of 17-31 and 4-7 weren't very good, neither situation was Morris able to really build his team the way he wanted to. In Tampa Bay, he was thrust into the head coach role after the Glazers—Tampa Bay's owners—abruptly fired Jon Gruden. They gutted the roster of anyone from the Super Bowl team and did a hard rebuild for a long-term solution. And even with all of that, the Buccaneers went 10-6 his second season. But like all things, he was fired after going 4-12 his third year with the Buccaneers. That was also 13 years ago. So it's not a good read into who Morris is as a coach now. He's learned, grown and improved his coaching in the decade since.
In Atlanta, the roster was slowly aging and falling apart and ready for a hard reset in 2020 that they just completed in 2023. The fact that Atlanta hired someone else to go through the hard reset instead of forcing it upon coach Morris actually makes more sense if you are buying into a conspiracy that Morris was the first choice in 2021, but they didn't want to do to him what the Glazers did to him. The Falcons roster at this time only has a handful of players from that 2020 roster, and honestly, that's for the best. They should be much better on the roster construction side this time for Morris' second stint as a head coach. At least this time, the Falcons will be giving him a general manager who wants to build him the best roster he can. The Buccaneers gave him a general manager who wanted to dismantle the entire thing down to the studs.
Looking to the future led by "Coach Rah"
An ultimate players' coach, Raheem Morris might have been the best fit out of any of the 14 coaches the Falcons interviewed for the locker room in Atlanta. Players absolutely love him. Coaches love him. Front office executives love him. He's willing to work with everyone to build the roster, coach the roster and get the absolute most out of a roster. When looking at the results of this past season, the Rams had a defense that was statistically comparable to the Falcons in a lot of ways, but had one quarter of the kind of investment the Falcons have put into their defense. With Morris now having general manager Terry Fontenot to help him build out his roster, Atlanta could be in line for a big jump in record—depending on how they address quarterback and who Morris hires for his staff.
"He’s going to give any organization an edge just how collaborative he is. It’s going to be an edge that most teams aren’t going to be able to compete with. Every coach who’s any good, who’s qualified, they’re going to want to work for Raheem. And I’m pretty sure there’ll be a lot of tampering charges because just about every player in the NFL’s going to text him and want to come play for him."- Rams GM Les Snead to The Athletic
The biggest hire that Raheem Morris needs to make is an offensive coordinator. Rams passing game coordinator Zac Robinson is a connection that will be made by a lot and would be a fantastic hire, but other potential offensive coordinators will include guys like San Francisco run game coordinator Chris Foerster, Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, or another coach from the Rams. For defensive coordinator, some more intriguing options like Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Rams defensive pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant or even new USC defensive line coach Eric Henderson—who played at Georgia Tech.
As far as position coaches are concerned, coach Morris might have some former players that could end up being coaches for this current roster. Names like Mohamed Sanu at wide receivers coach, Ricardo Allen as an offensive assistant, even some unexpected names like Robert Alford as a defensive backs coach or Sean Weatherspoon as a linebackers coach could be in the mix. What is known about Morris is that he will have some fantastic teachers on his staff and will be designing his group to get the most out of everyone on his roster. And he should definitely carry over some of the coaches from the Arthur Smith era like offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford, assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray, linebackers coach Frank Bush, tight ends coach Justin Peelle, and secondary coach Steve Jackson.
Note: While writing this article, it was announced that the Falcons have retained special teams coordinator Marquice Williams via NFL.com's Tom Pelissero.
The first thing the Falcons new coaching staff will have to do is evaluate the roster and see where they need to improve. Overall, the roster that general manager Terry Fontenot has built with Arthur Smith is very good. There are some holes on it, though. They need some more talent at edge rusher, quarterback, and at wide receiver. But for the most part, they have starters pretty much set in place and will be able to build under the new coach's vision. With Raheem Morris running the team, the Falcons should be looking for players who are team-first. They should be looking for players who can create impacts even though they may not be the highest drafted or if they even are drafted.
What is known is that Morris will get the best out of all of these players. He's going to lead the Falcons to the best possible record he can, even if he doesn't have the franchise quarterback on his roster. Morris is a true leader of men, and that's been the thing that's been missing from this franchise for the last three seasons. Arthur Smith wasn't the right guy. Morris is, and it's been time for him to get this opportunity. The Falcons were just the team that was smart enough to see it.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.