Raheem Morris has had a hell of a journey to the defensive coordinator in Atlanta. He started as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach, moved to wide receivers from 2016 through most of 2019, and then switched back over to the other side of the ball to coach the secondary and call passing down plays later on in the year. Now he’ll settle into a position he probably should have had well before now: Defensive coordinator.
Morris has had roles all over both sides of the ball for Atlanta, but this year was his first shot to actually call defensive plays, and things have gone noticeably better since he’s done so. The Falcons were one of the absolute worst defenses in the NFL in the first half of the season, but under Morris and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich (who will hopefully be back in an expanded role, as well), they’ve been in the top half of the league or better in everything except turnovers.
Morris never had great defenses during his stint as a coach and coordinator in Tampa Bay, but the results with more talent in Atlanta speak for themselves, even if we really need to couch that with the sample size. Locking him into that role for 2020 ensures another team doesn’t poach him—something they certainly may have considered had the Falcons not been willing to give him the coordinator gig—and provides a bright spot of news for fans who are otherwise pretty angry today.
One suspects that’s part of the reason Atlanta announced this with the retention news, given that fans and analysts alike like Morris and the job he’s done, which makes the defensive outlook a little bit brighter in 2020. The rest of the coaching staff, meanwhile, figures to be reviewed and potentially turned over in the team’s offseason review with Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff and Rich McKay, with Dirk Koetter seeming particularly likely to warrant a hard look.
Congratulations to Morris. I wouldn’t have kept Quinn around, as I’ve noted elsewhere, but as he’s back regardless, I do think Morris at DC is the right move.