NFL Rumors: Rams’ Raheem Morris Set to Be Named Falcons HC amid Bill Belichick Buzz

INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Los Angeles Rams defensive coach Raheem Morris during the Buffalo Bills game versus the Los Angeles Rams on September 8, 2022, at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will be the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, the team announced Thursday.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the hire.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Falcons plan to hire Rams’ defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as their head coach, per sources. pic.twitter.com/qlz3PbgEtJ

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network noted Morris and GM Terry Fontenot would both report directly to owner Arthur Blank.

According to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, the Rams will get a pair of compensatory picks as a result of the Falcons hiring Morris:

Jonathan Jones @jjones9

The Rams will get third-round compensatory picks in 2024 and 2025 for the Falcons hiring Morris

The news comes as somewhat of a surprise as former New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, at one point, appeared to be the front-runner for the job after interviewing with the franchise twice and even reportedly being flown out to Atlanta on Blank’s private jet.

The Falcons were looking for a new head coach because they fired Arthur Smith just hours after the end of the regular season.

“Decisions like this are never easy and they never feel good,” Blank said in a statement.

“We have profound respect for Coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years. He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations. After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”

Morris won’t have the highest of bars to clear to demonstrate improvement considering the Falcons went 7-10 in each of Smith’s three seasons. They were consistently mediocre and surely frustrated fans as they continued to fall just short in an NFC South that wasn’t exactly loaded with dominant teams.

The 2023 campaign was troubling because second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder didn’t take the strides the team was looking for when it gave him the starting role.

He was benched multiple times and ended up throwing for 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions despite plenty of talent on a roster that featured running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.

While Taylor Heinicke is a solid backup and played well at times, he also isn’t somebody who was going to be a franchise cornerstone. That means there are still plenty of long-term questions for the organization, but it at least found its next head coach.

Things trended in the wrong direction for the Falcons down the stretch, as they were very much in playoff contention at 6-6 before they dropped four of their final five games. One of those losses came to the 2-15 Carolina Panthers, while another featured Smith yelling at New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen because New Orleans scored a touchdown in the closing minutes of a blowout win.

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“This is football man. You have the right to do whatever the hell you want.” – Tiki Barber on Arthur Smith’s postgame tirade pic.twitter.com/ONXPGVdyoz

Allen apologized and said he told his players to take a knee but they ran a play anyway.

Still, it was quite the way for Smith’s tenure to end.

While Smith was consistently criticized for not using playmakers like Robinson, London and Pitts enough, that also provides reason for optimism with Morris.

If he can figure out a way to maximize all that potential, Atlanta can make noise in a wide-open NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the division at 9-8 in 2023 and 8-9 in 2022, so all the Falcons have to do is make small strides to reach the playoffs.

Whether those strides will include finding a new quarterback remains to be seen, but Morris will be facing postseason expectations right away after landing the job.

Good thing he’s used to those types of expectations after he helped lead the Los Angeles Rams to two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title as their defensive coordinator the past three seasons.

He also has experience as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is quite familiar with the Falcons since he was their interim coach and defensive coordinator in 2020.

He is someone who can help the Atlanta defense improve after it finished 18th in the league in points allowed per game, which would get the ball back to all those offensive weapons more often.

That would be a bad sign for the rest of the NFC South.

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