It took nearly a decade for Raheem Morris to get a second shot at head coaching in the NFL, and this time, the job comes with an interim tag. But it’s not a second chance that’s always given, so Morris will have a little more than half a season to make the most of it.
After the Falcons fired Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff following an 0-5 start, they promoted Morris from his defensive coordinator role to the interim head coach spot. The Falcons won their first game under Morris, but blew a late lead against the Lions and lost in Week 7. With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on big contracts that are likely untradeable ahead of the deadline, Morris will likely be leading a talented, underperforming, veteran roster the rest of the way.
Here’s what you need to know about the Falcons’ interim head coach and how he could help Atlanta find success in the season’s second half.
1. Raheem Morris got his start at Hofstra and Cornell
Morris played safety in college at Hofstra on Long Island. Immediately following the conclusion of his college playing career, Morris began coaching as a graduate assistant at Hofstra under under longtime Hofstra coach, Joe Gardi.
After a year with Hofstra, Morris moved on to coach at Cornell University for one season, serving as their defensive backs coach and a special teams assistant. Then he went back to Hofstra for two more seasons, serving as the defensive backs coach there.
At Hofstra, Morris worked on the defensive staff with Quinn, who was the defensive line coach there from 1996-1999, and then the defensive coordinator in 2000.
2. Monte Kiffin’s principles exist in Raheem Morris
Morris spent a number of his coaching years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was first an assistant under Jon Gruden and then the head coach from 2009 to 2011. There, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was a stalwart.
Kiffin’s calling-card as a defensive mind was the cover-2 zone. When Morris came to Atlanta, those principles morphed with Quinn’s usual cover-3 zone ideas, and when the Falcons defense turned things around at times in 2019, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians credited it to “playing more zone.”
3. Raheem Morris head coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three seasons
Although an interim head coach in Atlanta, Morris has been an NFL head coach before, in those aforementioned 2009-2011 seasons with the Buccaneers. His first year, Tampa Bay went 3-13, but Morris led a major turnaround in his second year, with a 10-6 record that marked the best turnaround in franchise history. The Buccaneers also became the first NFL team since the 1970 merger to start 10 rookies and finish with a winning record.
Regression to 4-12 in 2011 led to Morris being let go, and he hadn’t landed another head-coaching job until this interim spot with the Falcons.
4. Raheem Morris has a Super Bowl ring
Morris’ first season with the Buccaneers was in 2002. He was a defensive quality control coach for Tampa Bay.
That season, of course, was Gruden’s first season with the Bucs after being traded from the Raiders. That season, the Buccaneers allowed a league-low 12.3 points per game en route to beating the Raiders in the Super Bowl, getting Morris a Super Bowl 37 ring.