Raheem Morris

More Bill Belichick Fallout: Kraft, Falcons, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Commanders

Plenty has emerged in the wake of Bill Belichick going from eight-time Super Bowl champion to unemployed, but as the legendary coach regroups, some additional information about what went down in Atlanta — along with other teams’ coaching searches — has come to light.

Connecting some dots based on what has previously come out this offseason, ESPN.com’s Don Van Natta, Seth Wickersham and Jeremy Fowler report in an expansive piece that Falcons execs dissuaded Arthur Blank from hiring Belichick and Robert Kraft played a major role in the process that ended up veering away from an overqualified candidate who had initially appeared the favorite for the job Raheem Morris now has.

On the morning of the day Morris became the pick, Belichick still viewed himself as likely to land the job. Blank confirmed the 24-year Patriots HC did not ask him for personnel control, but power brokering — given Belichick’s outsized influence and experience — is believed to have still gone down in Atlanta’s front office. As a result, Belichick felt “blindsided” by the Morris hire.

CEO Rich McKay and GM Terry Fontenot did not want to work with Belichick, according to ESPN, which adds the six-time Super Bowl-winning HC was willing to work with the fourth-year GM (while confirming he and McKay’s less-than-stellar relationship). A previous report pointed to Belichick’s concern with Fontenot and the Falcons’ overall power structure. Fontenot, McKay and Falcons president Greg Beadles were part of the Falcons’ second Belichick interview.

Going so far as to reveal Falcons brass’ final rankings for the HC job, Fowler, Van Natta and Wickersham indicate Belichick did not finish in the top three for the Atlanta position. Beyond unanimous top choice Morris, Mike Macdonald and Texans OC Bobby Slowik respectively slotted second and third in this process.

Kraft is believed to have played a role in Blank backing off his initial hope to hire Belichick. A conversation between Blank and his longtime friend came after the Jan. 15 Blank-Belichick yacht meeting, and ESPN reports the Patriots owner warned the Falcons boss not to trust the accomplished HC.

Seeing as this comes during an offseason that has seen more information come out — via the much-discussed The Dynasty series — about Kraft’s issues with Belichick, it is hardly surprising the longtime Pats owner would provide such a warning. Robert Kraft, who considered ousting Belichick after 2022 (before son Jonathan Kraft advised against), referred to Belichick as “very, very, very arrogant, per ESPN. A Robert Kraft spokesman denied the owner, who was naturally complimentary of the game’s second-winningest HC upon the January separation, disparaged Belichick to Blank.

Belichick had already assembled a coaching staff, with some familiar names indeed believed to be part of it. Beyond plans to bring Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge aboard, former Texans VP (and Patriots staffer) Jack Easterby was on the radar to be part of a Belichick Atlanta staff. Falcons execs expressed reservations about this staff, with ESPN adding Blank also questioned why this group failed elsewhere. Belichick reportedly responded by saying this group was comprised of “better soldiers than generals.” Judge has since joined Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss staff. The Texans moved on from Easterby in 2022.

New Commanders GM Adam Peters, a Patriots scout in the 2000s, discussed the HC position with Belichick. Minority owner Magic Johnson pushed for Washington to hire the Maryland native, but Josh Harris — who spoke to Kraft about Belichick in December — had decided he would not make that move. We had heard previously the NBA and NHL owner wanted a more collaborative approach, which many current NFL owners prefer, rather than handing the keys to one person. With Harris wanting a front office-oriented leadership structure, Peters has final say on Commanders football matters. Belichick was not interested in the Chargers.

The three other NFC East HC jobs may well be open in 2025, and ESPN notes Belichick would be interested in the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants positions — should they open up. The Eagles did work on Belichick before determining Nick Sirianni would stay, with Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman viewed as fans of the future Hall of Famer, and the former has been close with Jerry Jones for many years. Lurie looks to have joined the Falcons in expressing hesitancy in greenlighting a Belichick move that would bring major changes while qualifying as a short-term fix.

Belichick, who turned 72 on Tuesday, is now six years older than the oldest HC ever hired (Bruce Arians). Any team that considers a 2025 hire would be adding someone who will turn 73 before coaching his next NFL game.

A Belichick confidant also expressed doubt the former Giants DC would earn another HC job unless Jones signs off on a Cowboys hire. Mike McCarthy‘s lame-duck status will keep Belichick rumors going, it would seem, but for now, a TV gig appears in the works. Belichick is expected to join Peyton Manning‘s Omaha Productions for analysis-based work. ESPN’s Pat McAfee also announced Belichick will be part of his show’s draft coverage (video link).

Fifteen wins shy of Don Shula‘s career record, Belichick is believed to have informed allies he expects to land at least one interview next year. While the NFC East jobs are worth monitoring, the bumps the Patriot Way has taken — coupled with Belichick’s age and implied threat to organizations’ status quos — leave it far from certain he will have a third opportunity to lead an NFL team.

Arthur Blank: Bill Belichick Never Asked To Control Falcons’ Football Ops

This offseason brought an unusual development involving a prospective coaching hire. The most accomplished coach to ever land on a carousel exited this year’s ride without a job. Bill Belichick‘s credentials are unmatched, but steady rumblings about what he would do upon taking a job look to have impacted his current free agency status.

A rare instance of power brokers interviewing a candidate and protecting their own job security came out as a reason Belichick is not currently the Falcons’ head coach. This component may well have led other teams to steer clear of the six-time Super Bowl-winning HC, who is believed to have only spoken with only one other team — the Commanders — about a coaching vacancy this offseason. While Belichick is believed to be planning to regroup with an eye on 2025, the Falcons now reside as the “what if?” team regarding the NFL’s second-winningest coach.

[RELATED: Latest On Falcons’ Quarterback Plans]

While calling Belichick’s interviews “excellent,” Arthur Blank said (via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein) Belichick did not ask the Falcons for full control of their football ops department during his interview process. A report indeed suggested the 71-year-old coach was targeting such power, though Belichick and Blank were not believed to have discussed this directly.

I want to be clear really on behalf of Bill, just as a human being and as a storied coach in the history of our league,” Blank said during an appearance on NFL Network’s Super Bowl Live. “Been a coach 49 years in the NFL. Bill, during all of our discussions with him, it was never about power, control, needing people to work for him, etcetera. He was interested in coaching. He definitely wanted a collaborative relationship with personnel, scouting.

He had done his reference checking on our department, had committed to me that he’d be happy to work with our people. In fact, did it in writing through a text message he sent to me at one point.”

Belichick met with Blank in a one-on-one setting before the second summit included members of the Falcons’ brass. Going into the second meeting, Belichick was viewed as the favorite. Following the larger-scale powwow in Atlanta, the team started moving in a different direction. It is natural, then, to assume the reports of Falcons brass steering Blank away from Belichick have some truth to them. GM Terry Fontenot said it was Blank’s call to hire Morris, but the fourth-year GM said (via Rothstein) he led the interview process. This came after a Falcons statement — issued in the wake of Arthur Smith‘s firing — said Blank and CEO Rich McKay would lead the search as Fontenot provided input.

One of the reports in the wake of the Falcons’ Raheem Morris hire pegged Belichick and McKay as having a less-than-stellar relationship. Despite moving out of the GM role in 2009, McKay has been a key Falcons decision-maker since. The team made a point of announcing the former Super Bowl-winning GM (with the Buccaneers) would step away from involvement in football ops moving forward. Friday, Blank said the experience Morris and Fontenot possess helped lead him to slide McKay toward the business side.

Given McKay’s 30-plus years in front offices and his 20-plus years with the Falcons, it is difficult to imagine he will not retain a voice in football matters — to some degree, at least. But Blank said Friday both Morris and Fontenot will report directly to ownership. Pointing toward Morris’ experience would seemingly represent a dig at Smith, but the former has been in the NFL much longer. Morris’ NFL run includes a three-year stay as Bucs HC and spending much of the 2020 season as Falcons interim HC.

Bill was really focused and is focused on being a great head coach, which is clearly what he has been,” Blank said. “We looked at all the candidates that we interviewed, all the time together, and we felt for a variety of reasons that the best choice for us at this point in our lives, the life of the franchise going forward, is Raheem Morris.”

If Belichick were to book more HC interviews in 2025, teams will naturally want to know the football lifer’s expectations regarding personnel control. He held dual HC/GM roles throughout his Patriots stay. Even if Belichick makes a point of indicating he is fine being only a head coach and not a de facto GM, having someone with his experience in the building and that organization giving someone else final say would be quite the interesting dynamic. After the Falcons passed, it will be a bit before these scenarios resurface.

Falcons Yet To Decide QB Direction; HC Raheem Morris Will Not Call Defensive Plays

The Falcons have a new (but familiar) head coach in place in the form of Raheem Morris, along with an adjusted organizational structure. With those moves taken care of, the team’s top priority will be acquiring an upgrade at the quarterback spot.

Both Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke are under contract for 2024, but their collective showings this season left plenty to be desired. Atlanta endorsed the former as a full-time starter based on his four-game performance to close out his rookie year, but he was benched on multiple occasions in 2023. Finding a replacement via trade, free agency or the draft will be a key objective for the Falcons, but a firm direction on that front has not yet emerged.

In the team’s press conference introducing Morris, it was revealed that he and general manager Terry Fontenot have only had “very limited” discussions to date about the QB spot (h/t ESPN’s Michael Rothstein). More than one month remains until the start of the new league year, but the Falcons’ plan with respect to finding a new starter will be worth following.

When you get those guys that are elite processors, when you get those guys that are decision makers,” Morris said. “When you get those guys that can just cut it loose and play ball and also play with those great fundamental techniques that we talked about… it makes you excited to go out there and find those things. And sometimes, it’s not easy to see.”

A number of veteran options (such as Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, Gardner Minshew and Ryan Tannehill) are set to reach free agency next month, so Atlanta will have short-term signal-callers to choose from. Passers such as Russell Wilson (Broncos), Justin Fields (Bears) and Zach Wilson (Jets) could also find themselves on the trade market in the near future. The Falcons hold the No. 8 selection in April’s draft, which will likely take them out of contention for the top QB three prospects in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels. An upgrade under center would help the team rebound from a third straight 7-10 campaign and complement a young skill-position corps, one of the league’s top offensive lines and an improved defense.

Notably, Morris also said he will not serve as the Falcons’ defensive play-caller. Those responsibilities will instead go to DC Jimmy Lake, who followed Morris from the Los Angeles to Atlanta. Lake has never served as a defensive coordinator at the NFL level, but he held DC duties at Washington before becoming the school’s head coach in 2020. The Falcons ranked 11th in total defense in 2023, but the team has room for improvement in a number of categories on both sides of the ball moving forward. An uptick in passing efficiency fits the bill, and Atlanta’s search for a new quarterback will an intriguing storyline to follow.

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

This year’s HC cycle became the rare carousel to generate more attention around the coaches who did not land jobs than the ones hired. Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel being left out will assuredly generate stories ahead of the 2025 hiring period, and it will be worth monitoring if Pete Carroll is connected to another coaching job.

But eight teams — up from five in 2023 — made the decision to change coaches. Dan Quinn‘s hire filled the final vacancy. While the Commanders’ process generated extensive fallout, teams are now moving forward with staff assembly following their HC hires.

The Commanders look to have gone through a bit of back-and-forth about their interest in Lions OC Ben Johnson. Pushing back on the notion the two-year Detroit play-caller was their top choice all along, Washington will give Quinn a second chance. But the former Dallas DC may well have been Washington’s third choice; the team made an aggressive push to land Mike Macdonald as well. The Seahawks finished that 11th-hour competition by giving the young Ravens DC a six-year deal.

Only Seattle and Washington waited until after the conference championship games to hire their coaches. Macdonald, who is half Carroll’s age, becomes the NFL’s youngest HC (36). (New Patriots leader Jerod Mayo, 37, held that title for several days.) A Ravens defense that carried major questions in the pass-rushing department led the NFL in sacks while leading the league in scoring defense as well. Quinn re-established his value over three years in Dallas, restoring that unit as one of the game’s best. While Quinn has the Super Bowl LI collapse on his resume and went 0-for-3 in playoff berths over his final three seasons in Atlanta, Washington’s new ownership group will bet on the experienced staffer.

Although the Commanders’ search produced a number of headlines, the Falcons introduced this year’s top “what if?” storyline. The only team serious about hiring Belichick, interviewing him twice, the Falcons steered clear of the six-time Super Bowl-winning HC. While Arthur Blank went into the hiring period prepared to hire the 24-year Patriots leader, it appears other Falcons higher-ups — in an effort potentially connected to their own statuses — helped sway the owner toward the Raheem Morris hire.

Morris, whom Falcons CEO Rich McKay hired during his time as Bucs GM in the early 2000s, will make the historically rare move of returning to coach a team years after operating as its interim HC. Morris left Atlanta on good terms in 2021 and comes back after a successful run as the Rams’ DC. Though, Belichick will undoubtedly be tied to Morris during the latter’s second Atlanta stay.

It took a six-year contract for the Panthers to bring in Bucs OC Dave Canales, who parlayed his first coordinator season into a head coaching gig. The Panthers trading the No. 1 overall pick and David Tepper‘s reputation as an impulsive meddler played into Carolina’s search, but the team had long been connected — despite Frank Reich‘s struggles — to pursuing an offense-oriented leader. Carolina also pursued Johnson for a second year but did not wait to make an attempt to interview him in-person. Following his work with Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield, Canales will be charged with developing Bryce Young.

The Titans also went offense with their hire, adding five-year Bengals non-play-calling OC Brian Callahan to succeed Vrabel. Zac Taylor‘s longtime lieutenant probably would have landed a job earlier had he called plays in a Joe Burrow-piloted offense, but the Titans will turn to the 39-year-old candidate to develop Will Levis. Brian Callahan will also technically oversee his father this coming season, hiring well-regarded Browns O-line coach Bill Callahan to the same position. This will be the Callahans’ first time on the same staff.

Las Vegas and New England each went with in-house solutions. The Raiders became the first team in seven years to elevate an interim HC to the full-time position. Mark Davis listened to his players, after expressing regret about not removing Rich Bisaccia‘s interim tag in 2022. But the second-generation owner also passed on interviewing other viable candidates for the job, only going through with required interviews to comply with the Rooney Rule. While Pierce accounted himself well as a leader during the season’s second half, his experience level is quite thin compared to just about every other HC hire in modern NFL history.

Using a Rooney Rule workaround by including language in Mayo’s contract about succeeding Belichick, the Patriots also passed on a true search. Robert Kraft intervened last year, extending Mayo after the Panthers had sought a meeting, and will give the keys to the recent Patriots linebacker. Mayo’s time in coaching does not match Pierce’s, though the former has spent more time as an NFL assistant. The franchise is largely keeping the Patriot Way going, promoting from within to fill the HC position and elevating an in-house staffer (Eliot Wolf) to fill the de facto GM post, only with Belichick no longer involved.

The highest-profile hire came out of Los Angeles. The Chargers became the team to lure Jim Harbaugh back to the pros. The Bolts gave the accomplished HC a $16MM salary — over five years — and signed off on allowing final say. Harbaugh has won everywhere he has been and held leverage in the form of another Michigan extension offer and a second Falcons interview being scheduled. The Bolts did not let him leave for that meeting and gave Harbaugh significant input into Tom Telesco‘s GM replacement (Joe Hortiz). Harbaugh’s final NFL snaps came with the Chargers, and after hiring three first-time HCs under Telesco, the team will make a bigger bet to turn things around.

Which team ended up doing the best with its 2024 hire? Why did Belichick fail to land a job? Will he and Vrabel be back in 2025? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this year’s HC market in the comments.

Bill Belichick Fallout: Falcons, GM Power, Morris, Eagles, Cowboys, Patriots, QBs, Kraft

This coaching carousel’s music has stopped with Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel on the outside looking in. While Vrabel’s prospects of returning to the league figure to remain strong, Belichick’s age — and the developments during this year’s hiring period — inject uncertainty into his prospects of landing another NFL HC job.

No coach in Belichick’s age range has landed a job, with Bruce Arians (66) being the oldest HC hire. Belichick’s age (72 in April) was naturally a factor for the Falcons, who interviewed him twice. But a degree of territory protecting appears to have transpired as well.

Arthur Blank indeed wanted to hire Belichick this year, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes, adding that some around the longtime Falcons owner swayed him. Belichick loomed as the early favorite, but after the team expanded its search (including Vrabel and Jim Harbaugh) following his second interview, it signaled a different candidate would be hired. The Falcons hired Raheem Morris, whom ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter notes has a five-year contract.

Morris remained popular with Falcons players, though the bulk of the cogs from his season as interim coach are gone. Had Belichick been hired by the Falcons, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes an organizational “groundshake” — on both the football and business sides — would have taken place. Staffers being concerned about losing their jobs or seeing their roles change dramatically is understandable, and this appears to be a key part of why Belichick is not currently assembling a staff in Atlanta.

Blank and Falcons CEO Rich McKay ran the team’s coaching search, with a team announcement indicating GM Terry Fontenot would provide input. This would suggest a vulnerability regarding the fourth-year GM’s status, but McKay assured following the Arthur Smith firing that was not the case. The Morris hire effectively keeps Fontenot in good standing, and although the Falcons have said the GM will now report to ownership — with McKay being kicked to the business side — The Athletic’s Jeff Howe indicates the latter does not have a good relationship with Belichick (subscription required).

A Belichick arrival would have undoubtedly meant a reduced Fontenot and potentially affected McKay’s, though given the latter’s 21-year tenure with the Falcons, Blank should not have been expected to dismiss his former GM to appease Belichick. Blank remains loyal to McKay, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson, who adds McKay’s longstanding relationship with Morris — whom he hired as a quality control assistant in Tampa during his run as Buccaneers GM — played a role in the Rams DC being hired.

Although a coach with Belichick’s credentials being shut out during this year’s cycle points to front office staffers being concerned about job security, it is also believed certain demands from the six-time Super Bowl-winning HC were set to ensue. Belichick and Blank are not believed to have discussed who would hold final say on personnel matters, but Robinson adds the coaching icon believed had he taken the job the Atlanta football ops would need to run through him. Shortly before the Belichick-Patriots separation, the 24-year New England HC expressed a willingness to relinquish some authority to stay. It does not appear that entailed a true commitment to change.

Had Robert Kraft believed Belichick would have been more open to changes — from his front office to philosophy to roster construction — Howe adds the owner would have been more inclined to keep him onboard for the 2024 season. Belichick’s Patriots contract ran through 2024, but Kraft followed through with a long-rumored plan to move on. The contract he authorized for Jerod Mayo in 2023 led to the assistant being quickly promoted.

The post-Tom Brady years in New England have also played an obvious role in Belichick’s extended status as a coaching free agent. Belichick’s handling of his quarterback position following Brady’s 2020 exit has also impacted teams’ view of him, Howe adds, with Mac Jones‘ swoon serving as the crux of this concern. Belichick crafted a bizarre plan to shift Matt Patricia to the offensive side, where he called plays in 2022.

This season brought a significant downturn for Jones, who finished behind only Ja’Marr Chase in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. Jones’ regression continued, under a third OC in three years (Bill O’Brien), and his NFL future is suddenly cloudy. Belichick demoted Jones to his third-string quarterback in Week 18, with ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss indicating poor scout-team work leading up to that contest prompted the departing HC to make that move. This marked the final chapter in a steadily deteriorating relationship between Belichick and the passer he chose 15th overall three years ago.

Belichick’s comments regarding Jones — before his 2023 freefall — have also confused some execs around the league, Howe adds. Had Belichick kept his Patriots job, ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano offers that he would have been expected to target a veteran quarterback this offseason. Belichick’s only Patriot-years season with a veteran option featured Cam Newton in 2020; the diminished MVP became a one-and-done in New England. Newton’s limitations in 2020 led to the Jones investment. It will now be on Mayo, and however the Patriots go about restructuring their front office, to solve this latest QB problem.

Belichick the coach continued to churn out stingy defenses, even without key pieces this season, but his GM work left the Patriots with one of the NFL’s worst rosters. Belichick’s personnel acumen previously equipped the Brady-led teams with a number of undervalued gems, aiding the Super Bowl runs. But the near-50-year NFL staffer’s standing has undeniably fallen. Only the Falcons and Commanders are believed to have spoken with Belichick about their HC jobs.

The Eagles and Cowboys, however, may be teams to monitor for the 2025 cycle — one that could conceivably be Belichick’s last chance to land another HC job. Both teams considered Belichick last month, but each NFC East power retained its embattled coach.

The Eagles retained Nick Sirianni, but had the Super Bowl HC not agreed to certain demands regarding his coordinators, the Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard indicated during an appearance on 98.5’s Felger and Mazz (h/t Bleacher Report) a Belichick-to-Philly path is believed to have been viable for 2024. The Eagles likely joined the Falcons in making backchannel contact pertaining to a potential Belichick pursuit, Bedard notes. Unlike Doug Pederson in 2021, Sirianni did fire coordinators. It is safe to place Sirianni, his 3-for-3 rate at leading the Eagles to the playoffs, on a hot seat.

Bedard noted the Eagles were “very interested” in Belichick, pointing to this connection remaining a storyline should Sirianni struggle to reassert himself this season. The Eagles would almost definitely not hand final personnel say to Belichick, given Howie Roseman‘s track record (the 2015 Chip Kelly-driven demotion notwithstanding). That would make this fit interesting, but were Belichick to spend his first season away from the NFL since 1974, it stands to reason he would go into the 2025 hiring period with reduced requests regarding the personnel side.

Jerry Jones also made headlines by saying he could work with Belichick, saying (via Yahoo’s Jori Epstein) there is “no doubt” he could coexist with the towering sideline presence. Jones openly saying he’d be fine with another (more accomplished) coach than is own is telling, but Mike McCarthy remains in place for a fifth season. The Cowboys are not extending McCarthy’s contract, making him the rare lame-duck HC in the modern NFL. This will naturally keep Belichick on the Dallas radar. How Belichick would navigate a setup in which ownership runs the personnel would be interesting, though Jones did cede more power to Belichick mentor Bill Parcells during the latter’s four-year stay in the 2000s.

As for this season, Jonathan Jones points to Belichick taking a TV job as the most likely 2024 path. The 29-year HC veteran was planning to be selective about a third HC destination, with Jones adding the goal will remain for personnel power to be involved in a 2025 pursuit. The clock is ticking on that front, with only four coaches in NFL history coaching a game beyond age 71.

Although Belichick’s football knowledge will obviously far surpass anyone he attempts to work with moving forward, the Patriots’ post-Brady years — along with potential consequences for in-house staffers on HC-needy teams — have him in the penalty box for now. With no retirement plans, Belichick’s potential re-emergence in 2025 will be a major NFL storyline over the next several months.

2024 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

The Commanders’ hire has wrapped this year’s cycle. Barring a team making an 11th-hour change, the 2024 HC carousel has come to a stop. The final breakdown produced five defensive coaches being hired compared to three with backgrounds on offense. Many teams are still searching for offensive and defensive coordinators, however.

Updated 2-1-24 (10:37am CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

  • Jerod Mayo, linebackers coach (Patriots): Hired

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Falcons Request OC Interview With LSU’s Cortez Hankton

As Raheem Morris looks to fill out his staff in Atlanta, he’s eyeing the college ranks for one of his top assistants. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Falcons have requested an interview with LSU co-offensive coordinator Cortez Hankton for their offensive coordinator job.

[RELATED: 2024 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Following a nine-year NFL career, Hankton joined Dartmouth’s coaching staff as their WRs coach in 2012. He’s held that role throughout his coaching career, including stints at Vanderbilt and Georgia. He took on the pass game coordinator role with the Bulldogs in 2019 and won a championship during his final year at the school.

He moved to LSU as their pass game coordinator/WRs coach in 2022. After offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock left for Notre Dame after this past season, Hankton was named co-offensive coordinator alongside quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan for the 2024 campaign. He most recently worked with wideouts Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, two potential first-round picks in this upcoming draft.

Hankton is the first known candidate for the Falcons offensive coordinator job. Morris has already reached out to Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde about the Falcons defensive coordinator job, and the team is set to retain special teams coordinator Marquice Williams (per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero).

Falcons Hire Raheem Morris As HC

The only team to interview Bill Belichick this month, the Falcons are heading in a different direction. The team is closing in on hiring Raheem Morris as its next head coach, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports. ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports the Falcons plan to make the hire.

This comes after CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported the Rams’ defensive coordinator impressed during his second interview this week. Morris had a Seahawks interview scheduled; this Falcons hire will nix that. Morris spent six seasons in Atlanta prior to moving to Los Angeles, finishing that Falcons tenure as interim HC replacing Dan Quinn. The Rams will pick up third-round picks in 2024 and 2025 for seeing a minority assistant hired as a head coach.

[RELATED: Latest On Falcons’ Leadership Structure]

While Belichick overshadowed this search, the Falcons conducted a wide-ranging process to replace Arthur Smith. The team met with Mike Vrabel on Wednesday and conducted second interviews with Panthers DC Ejiro Evero and Texans OC Bobby Slowik. The Falcons also met with Ben Johnson, Aaron Glenn, Anthony Weaver and Mike Macdonald virtually, but due to the Lions and Ravens staffers being tied to teams in the conference championship round, Atlanta could not meet in-person with those candidates this week. The NFC South franchise will move forward with Morris.

The Belichick piece is obviously significant here, as this represented the longtime Patriots leader’s most likely landing spot, but this also provides a true second chance for Morris. Now 47, Morris was hired as Buccaneers HC back in 2009 at just 32. Morris lasted three years as Tampa Bay’s HC but did not prove ready for the job. (Although the 2010 Bucs won 10 games, Morris went 17-31 in Tampa.) After leaving the Falcons on good terms for L.A. in 2021, Morris collected a Super Bowl ring. Sean McVay and Rams brass offered endless praise for Morris, who will become the latest in a line of Rams staffers to land promotions elsewhere.

Another Rams piece lingers here, too. Zac Robinson, McVay’s QBs coach, has emerged as a lead candidate to follow Morris and become the Falcons’ next OC, Jones reports. This would be interesting due to the volume of interview requests in Robinson’s inbox. Robinson has interviewed with the Patriots, Saints and Bears and received requests to meet with the Steelers and Raiders. After the Bengals took Dan Pitcher off the board Wednesday, Robinson following Morris to Georgia would further deplete the OC candidate pool.

Arthur Blank targeted Belichick early, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, but some internal persuasion looks to have swayed the owner. While Belichick’s accomplishments lap every other candidate in this year’s cycle, Morris also checks the experience box Blank sought — now becoming the first retread HC hire in the owner’s 22-year run — due to his Tampa Bay tenure and 2020 stay as the Atlanta interim boss. SI.com’s Albert Breer indicated this week the non-Blank sect of Falcons brass may not have been as interested in Belichick, and it is worth wondering if the prospect of the six-time Super Bowl champion HC shaking up Atlanta’s power structure played a role in the organization passing.

Belichick, 71, is five years older than anyone ever hired to be a full-time NFL head coach. The Bucs’ 2019 Bruce Arians hire still leads the way here, and this offseason would represent one of the most interesting carousels in league history if it leaves Belichick without a chair. Reports last week pegged Belichick — the first coach to meet with the Falcons twice — as the clear favorite, to the point he had the right of first refusal and was in a way interviewing the Falcons about a fit. As the days passed since Belichick’s Atlanta meeting, it started to look like Belichick was losing ground. The Falcons ended up meeting with 14 candidates.

Throughout Belichick’s Patriots tenure, he held personnel power. The Falcons had Blank and CEO Rich McKay running this search, but the team still has GM Terry Fontenot in place. Fontenot arrived as Morris exited in 2021; the two are now set to work together. The prospect of Belichick ultimately answering to McKay could have also been a red flag for the legendary HC, and Fontenot’s role would likely have been impacted by a Belichick hire. The Falcons also passing on Belichick bringing back a host of ex-Patriot staffers, including the likes of Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, also could have served as a dealbreaker for the team.

After Morris and Dave Canales (Panthers) agreed to terms in the NFC South today, only two teams — the Commanders and Seahawks — are looking for HCs. Neither have met with Belichick, and neither is believed to be interested. Rumblings about teams with HC vacancies being open to Belichick have surfaced, but unless a team were to fire its coach and create a late vacancy, it is looking like the 2024 season will be the first without Belichick in a head coaching role since 1999.

Belichick has been either a head coach or an assistant in the NFL each year since 1975. Beginning with his native Baltimore Colts, Belichick initially landed on the HC radar after winning two Super Bowls as Giants defensive coordinator. A Browns partnership in the early ’90s did not produce consistent success, but after Belichick teamed again with Bill Parcells with the Patriots and Jets later in the decade, Robert Kraft brought him back as head coach. That union (with a heavy assist from Tom Brady) produced one of the great HC runs in sports history, but the Pats have moved on after a 4-13 season, hiring heir apparent Jerod Mayo.

Will Belichick — 14 wins shy of Don Shula‘s all-time record — be willing to take an assistant job somewhere to continue his career? Belichick made a public comment indicating a willingness to relinquish authority in New England, but it worth wondering if other teams were leery about giving him the keys after recent struggles on the GM front in Foxborough. This Morris hire represents good news for Fontenot, who was tasked with a rebuild upon being hired in 2021. He appears set to continue that work with a second head coach.

The Falcons gave Morris the interim job in October 2020; he went 4-7 in that span, finishing off a 4-12 season for the team. Atlanta has since finished 7-10 in each of the past three seasons, with ugly late-season losses ending Smith’s run. In Morris, the Falcons have a familiar face who was part of Quinn’s Super Bowl LI staff. Morris also showed versatility during his first Atlanta stint, being the rare coach to work on both sides of the ball for the same franchise. The Falcons employed Morris as their wide receivers coach from 2016-19, shifting him to defensive coordinator in 2020.

Morris replaced Brandon Staley as Rams DC and served as the top defensive voice in the building for a Super Bowl champion. Riding an Aaron DonaldVon MillerJalen Ramsey veteran nucleus, Morris helped that defense crest at the right time. That said, the Rams ranked first in scoring and total defense under Staley in 2020; they never placed higher than 15th in either category under Morris. But the latter also displayed his coaching acumen this year, seeing several Super Bowl pieces stripped from the roster. The Rams still found their way back to the playoffs, with third-rounders Kobie Turner and Byron Young providing vital Donald support during what was initially labeled a rebuilding season.

It is still interesting the Falcons hired a Quinn staffer to be their next HC, and the Morris move also marks new territory in modern NFL history. Although 12 teams have elevated interim HCs to the full-time post in the 21st century, this is the only post-2000 occurrence of a team bringing back its interim leader after he subsequently coached elsewhere.

Morris will be tasked with leading a team Fontenot has indeed upgraded but one that appears in need at quarterback. The Falcons are expected to pursue an upgrade on Desmond Ridder, and Morris will be expected to use his defensive background to enhance that unit’s capabilities as well. The Falcons have not made the playoffs since 2017; they will bet on Morris over Belichick to become a better long-term leader.

Latest On Falcons’ Leadership Structure

The Falcons turned a lot of heads when they made the decision to give Raheem Morris his first official head coaching gig in 13 years instead of hiring Bill Belichick, who many see as one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history. A report from Dan Graziano details a situation that saw a difference of opinion on how the team’s executive structure should be shaped.

According to Graziano, multiple sources have been saying for weeks that team owner Arthur Blank came into the hiring process wanting Belichick. Unfortunately for Blank, Falcons chief executive officer Rich McKay has a hand in the day-to-day operations of the team and has a say, as well. Apparently, that role concerned Belichick, who inquired about McKay’s impact should he be hired. Belichick seemed to want structural power, similar to what he had in New England.

In the eyes of the organization, Belichick “was seen as a short-term play.” He’s got plenty of rings and is only 15 wins away from passing legendary coach Don Shula for the all-time record of most wins by a head coach. In order to grant Belichick the powers he sought within the organization, extensive overhauling would be required in the leadership structure; overhauling that would then need to be done a second time upon Belichick’s departure in the near future. In the end, it just made more sense to keep the broad structure in place and hire a coach with a greater aspiration for continuing to coach well into the future.

Additionally, though, the team made the call to ultimately move McKay away from the day-to-day operations of the team. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, while McKay will remain CEO of Sports and Entertainment (AMBSE) and will continue “to represent the team on league matters and the NFL’s Competition Committee,” McKay will focus more on soccer, away from football operations. Instead, Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot will report directly to Blank.

Commanders Scheduling Second HC Interviews With Dan Quinn, Raheem Morris

TUESDAY, 7:40pm: Another candidate has earned a second interview with the Commanders, as ESPN’s John Keim reports that Ravens defensive line coach Anthony Weaver is expected to meet again with the organization.

Weaver is also in consideration for the Falcons head coaching job, where he also earned a second interview. Weaver has spent the past three seasons in Baltimore, including the past two as the DL coach/associate head coach.

MONDAY, 5:55pm: The Commanders are lining up second interviews with head coach candidates. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Commanders are expected to host Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on an in-person interview. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is scheduling a second interview with the Commanders.

Following the Cowboys’ disappointing playoff loss, it didn’t take long for Quinn to hit the interview trail. He met with the Commanders last week, and he’s already earned second interviews with the Titans and Seahawks.

Following a third-straight standout year by the Cowboys defense, Quinn is once again a popular name on the head coaching market. The veteran coach reportedly rejected previous HC opportunities in order to stick with Dallas, but it sounds like he’s more open to moving on in 2024. The former Falcons head coach has also been connected to the Panthers and Chargers jobs.

Morris is also a popular HC candidate this offseason. We previously heard that Morris earned second interviews with the Panthers and Seahawks, and in addition to the Commanders, Schefter notes that the coordinator is also expected to take a second interview with the Falcons.

Morris has served as the Rams defensive coordinator since 2021. He served as Atlanta’s interim head coach in 2020 following the firing of (who else) Dan Quinn. Morris’s stint in Atlanta spanned six years, and he had a previous three-year stint as the head coach in Tampa Bay.

In addition to Quinn and Morris, the list of Commanders head coach candidates includes:

Washington Commanders