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Falcons hire Raheem Morris as head coach

On October 12, 2020, Raheem Morris was named interim head coach of the Falcons.

More than three years later, he'll have the title full-time – no interim tag.

Atlanta on Thursday announced it hired Morris as its next head coach, replacing Arthur Smith.

"Raheem has a charisma, presence, and ability to communicate and connect with players and coaches that's truly unmatched," Rams head coach Sean McVay said in a statement." He epitomizes great leadership through the ways he elevates everyone around him and makes every environment he's a part of better. Atlanta hired an incredibly special coach, but an even more exceptional person who will lead the right way."

"The Atlanta Falcons, an organization and owner that mean a lot to me personally, are fortunate to have hired Raheem Morris to lead their football team," Rams general manager Les Snead also said in a statement. "He is one of few exceptional leaders that has coached both sides of the ball with some of the the game's most respected minds at the professional and collegiate levels. An integral part of our Super Bowl Championship, Raheem has been successful everywhere he's been, including his first stint as a head coach. He leaves an indelible mark on everyone he works with and has a rare ability to unify and inspire a collective group to accomplish their mission. Most importantly, he is a respected leader who treats everyone the same, and is a model husband, father, and friend."

Morris, 47, spent the previous three seasons as the Rams' defensive coordinator, highlighted by guiding Los Angeles' defense during the team's Super Bowl LVI-winning 2021 campaign. Los Angeles allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game during the regular season that year and held three of its four opponents to 20 or fewer points in the postseason, including the Bengals in the Super Bowl.

This past season, Morris guided a young Rams defense to five shut-out halves (first half at Colts, vs. Commanders; second half at Seahawks, vs. Cardinals and at 49ers). Opponents scored 23 or fewer points in 12 of the Rams' 17 regular season games.

Morris, whose first NFL head coach job was with the Buccaneers from 2009-11, has been widely-regarded as overdue for his next opportunity in that role, with Rams players (current and former), executives and coaches all vouching for his candidacy during this cycle and previous ones.

Snead began his end-of-season press conference last Friday with a 3-minute monologue stumping for Morris and the value he would bring to an organization as its head coach.

"No. 1, I think we all know, great human being," Snead said on Jan. 19 as part of that monologue. "The guy is coded to respect everyone, to build a relationship with everyone no matter where you're at in the organization. What's awesome is as he does that, you just see the respect flow back in his direction. He's coded for that. It's a superpower that I think would help any organization.

"He's a highly intelligent human being that happened to choose football, and probably could have done a lot of things in life, but chose the path of football."

"He is a phenomenal leader, a great coach, a great friend," McVay said on Jan. 12. "I can't say enough good things about him. but what I remember is as soon as we were able to get him on board, there was an immediate excitement from everybody that he touched in this building whether it be players, coaches, staff, and he's got that magnetism about him where he is just saying something's different about this guy and he's really special."

Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff made the case for Morris earlier this month during an interview with NFL Network's Peter Schrager on Good Morning Football.

"One of the best leaders and culture builders I've ever been around," Demoff said in a Jan. 13 interview with Schrager. "And I was with Raheem in Tampa, but this is the guy who makes your building better. He's the glue guy who brings everybody together, your equipment staff, your training staff, your PR, the building, and the guy can coach."

Morris on Dec. 19 was asked if he anticipated being involved in head coaching conversations and how he approaches those scenarios. He said it was a privilege to be a head coach in the NFL, "and when you get those opportunities to sit down and talk with any of the 32 owners at any time is always something that you can be proud of, or the moment that you have a chance to lead an organization." He also said when those opportunities present themselves, he has to be ready to present the best version of himself. 

At the time, he maintained he was focused on preparing for the Rams' Thursday Night Football game against the Saints. But he also knew he would be ready for that next head coaching opportunity.  

"You know, I feel like I have grown," Morris said on Dec. 19. "I have gotten better being here with everybody. With being around Sean McVay, being around (General Manager) Les (Snead), being around this building, being within this organization and how we do things. I really love it. I love how we've handled adversity. I love being able to be around the local media and what you guys do. I think all of those things are part of getting ready in order to prepare yourself to be a head coach. I'd be not telling you the truth if I didn't think I was going to be better than I was the first time when I was 32 years old taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the interim coach mid-season in Atlanta. I look forward to those challenges and when those things present themselves, I'll be ready."

The Falcons believe he is, and now he's off to Atlanta to lead them.

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