It feels like just last week that Romeo Crennel in the running for the Texans’ head coaching job made the Falcons the presumed the favorite landing spot for top coaching candidates like Eric Bieniemy. A Falcons win and a Texans loss have changed that entirely.
The Falcons are one Todd Gurley knee away from being undefeated since Morris took over. The competition has not been terribly difficult, with the Falcons beating up the the likes of the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions. However, this contrasts losing games against poor competition in disastrous fashion that capped of Dan Quinn’s time in Atlanta.
More notable, outside of clear improvement on the offense and defense, is what has changed under Morris. Many faulted Quinn for his lack of accountability, particularly with players. Poor play and worse attitude never got a player demoted. Takkarist McKinley was cut after both. Compare this to Quinn keeping Vic Beasley starting for way too long.
The team’s direction appears to be improving and Arthur Blank and Rich McKay have noticed. Per Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, Morris may remove the “interim” designation from his title and lead the Falcons in 2021. Most notable about the rumor is that LaCanfora, a reporter with a very spotty record for accuracy, is that Morris is highly regarded by those close to McKay. McKay, the team’s former general manager, took a major role in the new stadium, then more recently snuck into a position seemingly above general manager as Blank’s top consultant.
Per LaCanfora, those close to McKay, such as Tony Dungy, are big supporters of Morris. The news is also fairly consistent for the Falcons: Sunday morning rumors that the head coach’s job is secure if the team’s head coach keeps winning. We saw that with Mike Smith and multiple times with Quinn.
More interesting is the rumor that the Falcons are looking closely at former Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith. Smith, a former coach later responsible for drafting players like Deandre Hopkins, JJ Watt, and Deshaun Watson, also has connections to McKay.
Smith and McKay have ties going back to their time on the NFL’s Competition Committee, Smith is very highly regarded by the league office in New York and is someone whom Troy Vincent, the league’s head of football operations and someone at the forefront of the NFL’s push for more diversity, strongly supports. There is a sense in the Atlanta organization that the team is not as far from competing as some have suggested and they are not embracing the idea of a wholesale rebuild to the roster, believing a core on offense puts the team in a position to win in 2021.
Many were expecting the Falcons to have a new head coach and a top 5 selection in the NFL draft, offering the almost unprecedented opportunity to select a new quarterback of the future. However, with some strong showings, the Falcons are likely out of range for an elite quarterback and appear competent enough to compete with their aging but effective core of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
A retooling instead of a full rebuild is almost certainly exactly what Blank and McKay want to hear. Considering Atlanta’s dire cap situation, a full rebuild would be certain to take three years or longer. The Falcons of the last few weeks look ready to compete for the next three years or longer potentially under Morris and Smith. However, Morris will certainly need to beat better competition than the Denver Broncos to secure the head coaching job.