With a new year inevitably come coaching vacancies and new opportunities around the National Football League.
The Los Angeles Rams have been fertile ground for harvesting coaching prospects. Sean McVay's tree now branches throughout the league and has matured to such an extent that, regrettably, it's already seen its first firing.
In addition to the Chargers, Raiders, and Panthers openings, several organizations figure to part ways with head coaches in the coming days. And the interviewing cycle will kick into gear shortly thereafter.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was a finalist in Indianapolis last winter, and should be on several short lists again in 2024.
His first head coaching post came in Tampa Bay (2009-2011), and he also served as the interim head coach for Atlanta (2020) before reuniting with McVay in L.A.
Now, a Super Bowl champion with the Rams, the 47-year-old has elevated a defensive roster that was a pincushion for NFL pundits through the summer months.
Ahkello Witherspoon has thrived, enjoying a career year at cornerback. Safety Jordan Fuller is coming off back-to-back games with interceptions. Second-year pro Quentin Lake has stepped into the Jalen Ramsey void at the star position admirably.
Middle linebacker Ernest Jones IV just broke the franchise record for tackles. Defensive tackle Kobie Turner has matched Aaron Donald's franchise record for sacks by a rookie – with fellow first-year pro Byron Young in hot pursuit. Turner should be a leading candidate for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year (just ask Aaron Donald).
If those are the headliners, equally important are the undrafted players who've developed into essential contributors under Morris' scheme and tutelage (as well as his outstanding position coaches).
Michael Hoecht has learned to play outside linebacker on the fly at the NFL level, for instance.
Defensive lineman Jonah Williams has been there every time his number is called.
And this week's guest on Rams Revealed has quietly put together a fantastic season at off-ball linebacker.
"We all love Rah," Christian Rozeboom said of his defensive coordinator on Monday. "Obviously, we hope he gets every (head coaching) opportunity that he deserves, but I hope he's my coach forever.
"He knows the game inside and out. He'll put us in spots every week to have success."
Admittedly, Rozeboom and the Rams didn't put their best foot forward in New York. But they handled sudden change especially well, conceding only six points off three offensive turnovers, and they escaped with a Week 17 victory over the Giants that ultimately was enough to punch a playoff ticket.
"(Morris) is also that coach that'll come alongside you when you're maybe not doing as well," the 26-year-old Iowa native said of his defensive coordinator. "He's really going to build you up and he develops that relationship on the side that you really know it's coming from a place of love. And he wants you to succeed just as much as anything."
Individually, Rozeboom has emerged as a stalwart in the middle of Morris' defense.
From Weeks 7 to 16, he graded out as a Top 25 linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, and ranked seventh in that site's coverage metric (minimum of 250 snaps).
Now, he and the Rams head to Santa Clara to take on the rival 49ers. With a victory this Sunday, they can finish at 10-7 and secure the six-seed in the NFC Playoffs.
Before the regular season finale, join us for Rams Revealed on YouTube as well as your preferred podcast platform.