Raheem Morris

Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

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NFC Notes: Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Cards

After taking a swing around the AFC earlier today, let’s take a look at a few NFC notes:

  • Teddy Bridgewater is likely to begin camp on the Active/PUP list, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter) the rehabbing quarterback has enjoyed some productive training sessions in Florida recently. The 24-year-old passer has not been cleared to practice but did do some throwing while at Vikings OTAs in May. Apparently, Bridgewater’s progressed further in between minicamp and training camp. But he’s still less than a year removed from the gruesome knee injury that changed the course of his career.
  • The Packers added defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois earlier this year to bolster a defensive line that badly needed reinforcements, and as Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com writes, Green Bay has been interested in the LSU product for years. The club wanted to sign him after the 2012 season, but Jean-Francois joined the Colts instead before moving on to Washington. The Redskins released him in March, clearing the way for his one-year pact with the Packers.
  • Patrick Peterson‘s running mate at corner has served as one of the main discussion items of the Cardinals‘ offseason. Bruce Arians said Sunday (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) the position remains open and likely won’t be decided until the regular season begins. Arians, though, praised the work of Justin Bethel (Twitter link, via Urban) — less than a year after the coach labeled the corner a “failure in progress.” The Cardinals could still be in the market for a veteran corner, Urban writes, but as of now the battle is between Bethel and second-year man Brandon Williams.
  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and assistant head coach/offensive pass game coordinator Raheem Morris have been close for years, and Quinn believes Morris will get another head coaching job in the NFL, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. Morris, of course, coached the division-rival Buccaneers from 2009-11 and compiled a disappointing 17-31 record. Nonetheless, Quinn said Morris is more than equipped to handle a head coaching position and hopes he will get his next chance in the near future. Morris declined to talk about his head coaching ambitions out of respect for Quinn and the team.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report

Falcons Fire DC Richard Smith

The Falcons have fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, according to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Smith could eventually be re-assigned within the organization, sources tell Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.Richard Smith (Vertical)

[RELATED: Falcons Hire OC Steve Sarkasian]

Atlanta may look to fill the DC vacancy with an internal hire, per McClure, who identifies secondary coach Marquand Manuel as a “strong” contender for the job. Manuel, 37, doesn’t boast any play-calling experience, but did interview for the Jaguars’ coordinator gig last offseason. Other internal candidates to become the Falcons’ next coordinator could include pass game coordinator Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, and receivers coach Raheem Morris, adds McClure. Henderson is on the 49ers’ radar, as well, as new head coach Kyle Shanahan reportedly wants to hire co-defensive coordinators.

Smith, meanwhile, has coached NFL defenses since the late-1980s, and has coordinated units in Miami and Houston in addition to Atlanta. Since joining the Falcons in 2015, Smith never led a defense that finished among the top half of the league in DVOA, with the team’s best finish coming in 2015 (22nd). This past season, Atlanta ranked just 27th in defensive DVOA, although the club improved as the season progressed. As McClure hinted at, Smith may stay with the Falcons, but is currently exploring his options, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Cox is also on the outs after Atlanta’s defensive line ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks, but finished just 24th and 25th in adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards, respectively. Although he deserves credit for helping second-year end Vic Beasley flourish (and lead the NFL with 15.5 sacks), Cox’s unit was subpar overall. Cox, who’s coached in the NFL since 2006 following a long playing a career, is now a coaching free agent.

Given that Shanahan has left Atlanta, the Falcons will begin the 2017 campaign with new coordinators on each side of the ball. Steve Sarkasian has already been hired to replace Shanahan on offense, but the club also lost a respected offensive mind in quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who was hired as the Rams’ new OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chip Kelly Legit OC Candidate For Falcons

Just over a week after the Falcons expressed interest in having Chip Kelly become their next offensive coordinator, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach has emerged as a “legitimate candidate” to land the role, reports Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kelly would take over for Kyle Shanahan, who will replace Kelly as the 49ers’ head coach after the Falcons take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI this Sunday.

Chip Kelly (vertical)

The fact that there aren’t any other proven offensive coordinator candidates on the market makes Kelly a viable option for Atlanta, Schultz notes. Long an offensive guru, the 53-year-old Kelly would inherit an enviable collection of talent in Atlanta, whose attack has laid waste to opposing defenses this season. The Matt Ryan-, Julio Jones– and Devonta Freeman-led unit topped the NFL in both scoring and DVOA during the regular season, and it has combined for 78 points in playoff wins over the Seahawks and Packers.

Kelly is known for running a fast-paced offense, which helped lead to his downfall in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, but the ex-Oregon head coach’s NFL failures have “humbled” him, according to Schultz. As a result, Kelly is willing to slow things down, which he’d have to do in order to accommodate the Falcons’ offensive weapons and make life easier on the team’s defense.

Shanahan, meanwhile, won’t be able to take any significant members of head coach Dan Quinn‘s staff with him to San Francisco. The Falcons will prevent him from pilfering the likes of assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris, running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Chris Morgan, a source told Schultz. However, offensive assistants Mike McDaniel, Mike LaFleur and Matt LaFleur could end up with Shanahan’s 49ers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Hire Cowboys’ Jerome Henderson

MONDAY, 10:21am: The Falcons have officially announced the hiring of Henderson as their defensive passing game coordinator, and confirmed Morris’ reassignment.

SUNDAY, 3:42pm: The Falcons have hired Cowboys defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson as their defensive passing game coordinator, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Raheem Morris, who previously held that title for Atlanta, will become the club’s offensive passing game coordinator and receivers coach, reports Albert Breer of NFL.com (Twitter links).Jerome Henderson

[RELATED: 2016 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Tracker]

Henderson, 46, has been a hot name on the coaching carousel this offseason, having been linked to a number of assistant jobs around the league in addition to interviewing for the Browns’ head coaching vacancy. Henderson also met with the Jaguars regarding their defensive coordinator position, and was linked to gigs on the Dolphins’ staff under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

While Henderson had suggested that he wouldn’t leave Dallas for anything other than a promotion (which could have been taken to mean a coordinator role), the move to defensive passing game coordinator presumably represents a step up. Morris, meanwhile, also has the title of assistant head coach in Atlanta, so the club and head coach Dan Quinn evidently had a bit more leeway to move Morris around on staff without technically demoting him.

But given that Morris has never coached offense in any capacity, moving him to the opposite side of the ball is certainly an odd move. The entirety of Morris’ coaching career — exempting his years as Tampa Bay’s head coach — has been spent on defense, mostly in the secondary. It’s possible that Atlanta wanted to keep him on staff in any role possible, regardless of specifics — the Bengals did something similar in 2012, naming Hue Jackson as an assistant in the secondary despite Jackson having spent his career coaching offense.

[RELATED: Falcons part ways with executive Lionel Vital]

We first heard Friday that Henderson would be interviewing for a position with Atlanta, but the club made it clear in its release that incumbent defensive coordinator Richard Smith would not lose his title. Additionally, Falcons defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel yesterday turned down an opportunity to become the Jaguars’ defensive passing game coordinator, so Henderson couldn’t take on the role of secondary coach in Atlanta, either.

Meanwhile, Cowboys safeties coach Joe Baker is expected to assume Henderson’s responsibilities in Dallas, becoming the full-time secondary coach, per Rapoport (Twitter link).

Coach Updates: Henderson, Falcons, Browns

Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson is interviewing for a position on the Falcons‘ coaching staff, but not for the defensive coordinator job — Richard Smith is staying in that role, Atlanta confirmed today (via Twitter).

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who first reported that Henderson was interviewing for the DC role in Atlanta, tweets that his Cowboys contacts believed that was the case. Henderson has suggested he wouldn’t leave Dallas for a job that wasn’t a promotion, so there’s some confusion about what exactly his role with the Falcons would be.

According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, the Falcons may view Henderson as a potential defensive pass-game coordinator, a position currently held by Raheem Morris. Morris also has an assistant head coach title, which could give Atlanta the flexibility to bring Henderson aboard and move Morris to another role without technically demoting him.

As we wait to see whether Henderson decides to leave Dallas for the Falcons, here are some other coaching updates from around the NFL:

  • Former Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn, who recently interviewed with the Titans, is being hired by the Browns as their defensive line coach, reports Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
  • Marvez passes along another Browns-related coaching update, tweeting that the Packers have hired tight ends coach Brian Angelichio away from Cleveland for the same position on Green Bay’s staff.
  • The Giants are expected to hire Packers assistant offensive line coach Mike Solari as their new offensive line coach, a source tells Newsday’s Tom Rock. We learned on Thursday that Solari was a “strong candidate” to join Ben McAdoo‘s staff.
  • The 49ers are looking at Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad for the same job in San Francisco, tweets Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. As we heard on Wednesday, the Niners are also considering Pat Flaherty for that position.
  • The Saints have hired former Giants defensive backs coach and Rams defensive coordinator Peter Guinta as a senior defensive assistant, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Guinta has been out of the NFL since being let go by the Giants last January.

Falcons To Hire Raheem Morris, Richard Smith

FEBRUARY 2, 4:26pm: According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter links), Smith will indeed have the defensive coordinator title in Atlanta. The Falcons also plan to hire a secondary coach separate of Morris and a linebackers coach separate of Smith, with the intention of building a big staff like Pete Carroll‘s in Seattle.

JANUARY 26, 1:18pm: While the team has yet to formally announce anything yet, Morris and Smith have both accepted positions with the Falcons, per reports from Mike Jones of the Washington Post (via Twitter) and Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Klis says Smith will have a “senior defensive position” in Atlanta, so it’s still not entirely clear whether he’ll have the DC title.

9:48am: The only team in the NFL without a head coach officially in place is expected to formally install Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in that role a week from now, and is already moving toward putting together its staff. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), the Falcons intend to hire Washington secondary coach Raheem Morris and Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith.

While multiple reports over the weekend indicated that Morris was expected to land with the Falcons, the team’s interest in Smith is new information, and is corroborated by Albert Breer of the NFL Network (all Twitter links). According to Breer, Smith will likely handle the run defense in Atlanta, while Morris will be in charge of the pass defense. Breer adds that Morris’ title is expected to be assistant head coach, which should mean that Smith will be named the club’s defensive coordinator.

With Quinn still focused on preparing Seattle’s defense for this Sunday’s game against the Patriots, neither Morris’ deal nor Smith’s has been finalized yet, but it appears they’ll both join a staff that’s expected to be a “big one in numbers,” per Breer, who notes that Quinn also figures to bring a Seahawks assistant or two with him to Atlanta. We heard on Friday that Seattle defensive backs coach Kris Richard was a good bet to land a defensive coordinator job with either the Falcons or Seahawks, so perhaps with Morris and Smith expected to lead Atlanta’s unit, Seattle will promote Richard to replace Quinn.

Until the Falcons officially name Quinn their new head coach, there will be several moving parts in play here, so we likely won’t get any resolution until next week. Still, it appears that the staff in Atlanta is starting to come together.

Coaching Notes: LeBeau, Bills, Raiders, Bears

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is no longer in the running to join the staff of the Cardinals, reports Kent Somers of AZCentral.com. Since he resigned from his long time post with the Steelers, the Cardinals seemed like a logical option for the 77-year old Hall of Fame coach. While it was thought that LeBeau would only be interested in coordinator positions, he was reportedly set to be a senior assistant and serve as the Cardinals linebacker coach.

With the Cardinals out of the mix for his services, the only other organization with which he has been linked is the Titans, where he could also serve as a senior assistant in some capacity.

The Cardinals are expected to promote from within to fill their defensive coordinator role vacated when Todd Bowles was hired as head coach of the Jets.

Here are some other coaching notes from around the NFL, with more recent news added to the top:

  • The Bills are expected to hire Chris Palmer to their coaching staff as a senior offensive assistant, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN (via Twitter). Palmer’s long career most recently brought him to the Titans, where he served as offensive coordinator from 2011-2012.
  • The Raiders have also added former Lions assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson to their staff, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com (via Twitter). Johnson will be the Raiders tight ends coach.
  • The Bears have brought Jay Rodgers onto the staff to coach the defensive line, reports Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). Rodgers is the older brother of special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

Earlier Updates:

  • The Broncos have not tried to hide the fact that they would like to hire Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator, but they may not get a chance until after the Bengals are able to secure another coach, writes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. The Bengals reportedly have their eye on former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, and would likely allow Joseph out of his contract if they are able to hire Fewell. The Broncos are willing to wait to see if Fewell is hired by the Bengals before moving on to their next option.
  • While there have been no official announcements made, the Raiders have reportedly added Bernie Parmalee as their running backs coach and Rob Moore as their wide receivers coach, reports Jerry McDonald of InsideBayArea.com (via Twitter). He also notes that defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson is the only member of the staff set to return so far.
  • The Falcons are planning on hiring Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their head coach after the Super Bowl, and reports have it that Quinn will be targeting former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris as part of his staff. However, Mike Jones of the Washington Post writes that Morris is being considered for an assistant head coach/passing game coordinator position, and not defensive coordinaor (via Twitter). Jones reports that the deal is not finished, but it is close (via Twitter).

Sunday Roundup: Morris, Harman, Graham

Let’s take a look at some links from around the league as the Seahawks and Patriots prepare to head off to Arizona:

  • We learned earlier today that the Falcons, who will name Dan Quinn as their next head coach on February 2, will also hire Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris for an assistant-defensive coordinator hybrid position. NBC4’s Dianna Marie Russini tweets that Morris will not be the team’s defensive coordinator and that he will serve as an assistant of some kind.
  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com adds that Wade Harman, the Falcons’ assistant offensive line coach in 2014, will be named as the team’s next tight ends coach. Harman served as the Ravens‘ tight ends coach for 15 years before coming to Atlanta in 2014.
  • Washington has 12 players eligible for unrestricted free agency, and Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com offers his thoughts as to which of those players the team should re-sign.
  • LeGarrette Blount has fallen out of favor with both collegiate and professional organizations in his football career, but Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald writes that Blount’s second stint with the Patriots has proven that his true home is in New England.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wonders if the Buccaneers’ hiring of Mike Bajakian as their quarterbacks coach signals that they have already decided to draft Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Volin points out that Bajakian’s spread-option attack is much better suited to Mariota’s skillset than Jameis Winston‘s.
  • Marc Sessler of NFL.com writes that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will use tonight’s Pro Bowl as a gauge to determine whether he should undergo offseason shoulder surgery.
  • Mike Klis of the Denver Post says the Broncos have reached a crossroads, and he believes the team will have more questions with Peyton Manning than without.
  • Surprise Pro Bowler Justin Forsett reaffirmed this week that he wants to remain with the Ravens, writes Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. The journeyman veteran is tired of bouncing around the league and would like to establish a long-term relationship with the team that gave him the best chance to finally enjoy a breakout season.

Falcons To Hire Dan Quinn As HC

It may be little more than a formality at this point, but D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that current Seahawks DC Dan Quinn will be named the new head coach of the Falcons on Monday, February 2 in Atlanta.

We learned last week that Atlanta planned to hire Quinn whenever Seattle’s season ends, and, one way or another, the Seahawks’ season will be over at the end of Super Bowl XLIX on February 1. It has been clear for several weeks that Quinn was the Falcons’ top choice to replace Mike Smith, and they have demonstrated all along they were willing to wait for their man. In the meantime, Atlanta named Kyle Shanahan as the team’s new offensive coordinator, and it was also reported that Seahawks defensive backs coach Kris Richard could follow Quinn to Atlanta to become the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator.Dan Quinn (vertical)

However, Ledbetter also reports that the Falcons plan to hire Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris for a hybrid assistant-defensive coordinator position. Quinn himself is expected to call the defensive plays, so it remains unclear if Morris’ hiring will affect Richard in any way.

As for Quinn himself, he has engineered two excellent defenses in his two seasons as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, defenses that have played a starring role in at least one, and perhaps two, Super Bowl victories. As our Dallas Robinson recently wrote, “Both of [Quinn’s] Seahawks defenses have finished first in DVOA per Football Outsiders, and in 2014, Seattle allowed just 268 yards per game and 15.9 points per game, both first in the league.” The 44-year-old also brings a decade of NFL experience with him, much of which came as a defensive line coach for the 49ers, Dolphins, and Jets.

Quinn also worked as defensive line coach for Seattle from 2009-2010 before moving to the college ranks as Florida’s defensive coordinator during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. But after returning to the NFL as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in 2013, Quinn has met with nothing but success, and he immediately established himself as one of the top assistants in the league.

The Falcons, of course, were once considered the favorite to land Rex Ryan, who ultimately became head coach of the Bills, and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was also frequently linked to Atlanta’s top job. The Falcons also interviewed Adam Gase, Josh McDaniels, Doug Marrone, and Keith Armstrong, but Quinn boasted the strongest defensive background of any head coaching candidate this year, with the possible exception of Ryan. For a team that has talent on the offensive side of the ball but a porous defense, Quinn seems to be an almost perfect fit. And, as of February 2, he can begin going to work for his new club.

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