Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris Impressing Falcons’ Brass

Interim Falcons head coach Raheem Morris has his team playing well following Dan Quinn‘s dismissal, and it has caught the attention of Atlanta decision-makers. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Morris has a good chance to be named the team’s permanent HC after the season.

Under Morris, the Falcons have gone 3-1, and the one loss was a 23-22 heartbreaker against the Lions that came on a last-second score (and if not for a poor decision by running back Todd Gurley, Detroit wouldn’t even have had the chance to possess the ball for the game-winning drive). Atlanta’s performance has improved on both sides of the ball, and Morris’ leadership abilities represent another highlight on his resume.

The fact that Morris has now been with the Falcons in a number of different roles since 2015 further helps his cause, as do his strong ties with team president Rich McKay. He was one of the youngest head coaches in league history when he helmed the Buccaneers from 2007-09, and it looks like he might not be too far away from another shot, whether that’s with the Falcons or someone else.

For now, though, Atlanta is focused on replacing deposed GM Thomas Dimitroff. La Canfora says the club is putting its list of candidates together and hopes to hold some interviews next month. Former Texans general manager Rick Smith, who also has a history with McKay, is one person the club would like to meet with.

Presumably, whoever the new general manager is will get to choose the team’s permanent head coach, but that person will have to give strong consideration to Morris if the Falcons continue to play well down the stretch.

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Falcons Name Raheem Morris As Interim Coach

The Falcons have finalized a deal to make Raheem Morris their interim head coach, as NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. Morris, 44, takes over for Dan Quinn, who was jettisoned on Sunday. 

Morris served as the Buccaneers’ head coach from 2009 to 2011. He’s been with the Falcons since 2015, earning a promotion from secondary coach to defensive coordinator in 2020. Now, he’ll get a chance to audition for the top job as he tries to turn things around from 0-5. It all starts on Sunday, when the Falcons face the Vikings in Minnesota.

The Falcons bounced Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff on Sunday, leaving team president Rich McKay to oversee the roster. Dimitroff had served as the Falcons’ GM since 2008. Quinn, hired in 2015, was moments away from winning a Super Bowl less than four years ago. It’s been all downhill since then, and that NFC championship team fell apart rapidly. They managed to go 10-6 the following year but were 7-9 in each of the past two, and of course started this season 0-5. All in all, Quinn finished his run at a nearly even 43-42 through five-plus seasons.

Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around in Atlanta. Even with tremendous talent at the skill positions, the Falcons will need a major overhaul this spring.

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Falcons To Keep Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff

The Falcons will be making lots of changes this offseason, but they won’t be in the hunt for a new head coach or general manager. On Friday, the Falcons announced that they’ll retain both Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff in 2020. 

However, they have made one significant change – secondary coach and assistant head coach Raheem Morris has been named as the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator. The move will go into effect immediately after the Falcons’ season finale.

Quinn and Dimitroff will return next year, though they’ll both report directly to Falcons CEO Rich McKay, who will continue to report to owner Arthur Blank. Blank, per the press release, “will retain oversight of the football operation.”

The decision to keep the duo doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given their late season success. The Falcons were disappointing on the whole, but they are riding a three-game winning streak heading into their season finale against the Buccaneers.

Quinn’s seat starting heating up back in November, when the Falcons got off to an atrocious 1-7 start. At the time, Quinn’s defense ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every defensive category, with nearly 400 yards of total offense allowed per game. Things have turned around recently – the Falcons held the Saints to nine points in a Week 10 win and capped the Niners at just 22 points en route to a December upset.

In the 2016 season, Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, though their painful collapse cost them their first Lombardi Trophy. His club followed up with a 10-6 mark in the following season, but they’ve been on a downhill slide ever since. In 2020, Quinn will return for a sixth season at the helm, giving him an opportunity to right the ship.

Dimitroff has served as the Falcons’ GM since the 2008 season with mixed results, though he is responsible for drafting team pillars including Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, with the latter coming to Atlanta via a king’s ransom of picks. He’ll stay for a 12th season as Falcons GM, though more changes could be coming to the front office:

Every year we evaluate all our football operations and this year I have asked Rich to work closely with Thomas and Dan over the next couple of weeks to conduct a top-to-bottom review, inclusive of structure, processes, resourcing and personnel to identify whatever changes are necessary to enable us to compete consistently at the highest level,” Blank said in a statement. “In my time as owner, and particularly since 2008, we have been one of the winningest teams in the NFC ranking fourth in wins and across the NFL, tied for seventh in wins, and that remains the only acceptable result for us now and in the future.”

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South Notes: Gipson, Quinn, Thomas, Ryan

Texans safety Tashaun Gipson is expected to return to the lineup this week, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Gipson has missed the team’s previous two games after sustaining a back injury in Week 7. Houston has won both games without their starting safety, but set to go up against the Ravens and their dynamic offense, the team hopes to be as close to full strength as possible.

Here’s some more notes from the NFC and AFC South:

  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has relinquished defensive play-calling duties, according to Darin Gantt of NBC Sports. It appears that assistant head coach Raheem Morris and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich are now responsible for sharing the duties. Given Atlanta’s atrocious start to the season defensively, it makes sense that the staff decided to make a change. While the team remains just 2-7 on the season, they are coming off their strongest performance of the season in a dominating 26-9 victory against the Saints.
  • Two AFC South rivals could be welcoming back some depth in the coming weeks. Texans tight end Jordan Thomas and Jaguars linebacker Jake Ryan have both returned to practice for their respective teams, according to Howard Balzer. Both players were placed on the injured reserve with a designation to return earlier this season. They will now be allowed to practice for up to 21 days before they must be added to the 53-man roster or must return to the injured reserve for the remainder of the year.

NFC Notes: Gordon, Dak, Falcons, Bucs

There’s natural excitement for Josh Gordon‘s debut with the Seahawks, but Pete Carroll cautioned that the organization isn’t setting any expectations for the talented wideout.

“I’m telling you, I’m just waiting to see him,” Carroll said Monday (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “I’ve seen him on film. He looks pretty special. He’s got a good history of making plays and all that, but I want to see him when he mixes with our guys and really just take it one step at a time with no expectations of how much he would contribute or play or whatever. I’m just going to see what happens.”

Gordon was sidelined in mid-October by a knee injury, and he was placed on the injured reserve and later cut by the Patriots. Despite the ailment, Carroll said the receiver is ready to go.

“Yeah, he’s been cleared to go,” Carroll said. “He’s ready to go, so Thursday when we get rolling again, he’ll be going. He’s in the building, studying and all that, getting ready. We’ll see how it goes.”

Let’s check out some more notes out of the NFC…

  • During the Cowboys‘ bye week, quarterback Dak Prescott had four wisdom teeth removed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Through the first half of tonight’s contest against the Giants, Prescott has completed 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 137 yards, one touchdown, and a pick.
  • The Falcons made a number of coaching changes this afternoon, according to Will McFadden of the team’s website. Wide receivers coach Raheem Morris will be the Falcons new secondary coach, while running backs coach Dave Brock will move back to his old position of wide receivers coach. Offensive assistant/assistant special teams coach Bernie Parmalee will become the team’s new running backs coach. We learned this weekend that head coach Dan Quinn would keep his job through the bye week.
  • Ronald Jones has secured the Buccaneers starting running back gig, coach Bruce Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. The former second-rounder started the year in a timeshare with Peyton Barber, and he’s responded by rushing for 381 yards and averaging 4.1 yards per carry. “He’s been consistent (and) he’s been more explosive. It’s not that Peyton did anything wrong,” Arians said. The coach added that T.J. Logan and Dare Ogunbowale will also see reps at running back.

Falcons Won’t Hire Defensive Coordinator

Marquand Manuel‘s dismissal as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator will result in a temporary elimination of that position on Atlanta’s staff.

Dan Quinn said Thursday he plans to serve in that role, the fifth-year coach adding defensive play-calling duties to his game-day docket. Quinn considered moving wide receivers coach Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator but decided he will take over the play-calling.

The former Seattle DC assumed Atlanta’s defensive play-calling responsibilities late in the 2016 season but allowed Manuel to run that area the past two years.

More than anything I just really wanted to make sure that the style and attitude that we want to play defensively. I really enjoy that part of it and want to be more involved in that way,” Quinn said, via Will McFadden of AtlantaFalcons.com. “I thought that was the appropriate to say, ‘Hey, if I’m going to be the one calling it, we certainly want to give you the right to do that.”

The Falcons ranked eighth in scoring defense in 2017, but a more depleted version allowed the fifth-most points this season. They were 27th in this area under Quinn and Richard Smith in 2016.

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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.

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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.

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