Blank Picks Raheem Morris to Lead Falcons

Blank Picks Raheem Morris to Lead Falcons

After conducting multiple interviews with high profile head coach candidates Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank selected Raheem Morris to fill the vacancy.

The Atlanta Falcons have selected Raheem Morris to be their new head coach // Photo Courtesy of Twitter/X
The Atlanta Falcons have selected Raheem Morris to be their new head coach // Photo Courtesy of Twitter/X

After combing through the resumes of dozens of candidates, and conducting interviews with 14 hopefuls, Arthur Blank has landed on former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to be the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Morris may be a familiar face in Atlanta — he has previously worked as an assistant in multiple capacities, defensive coordinator, and interim head coach in 2020 – but his hiring is nevertheless historic as the 47-year-old New Jersey native represents the first Black head coach (without an interim tag) in Falcons history.

“With 26 years of experience in the NFL, including the last three in an outstanding organization that has won our league’s championship in that time, Raheem emerged from a field of excellent candidates and is the right leader to take our team into the future,” Blank remarked immediately after the hiring of Morris on Jan. 25. “His time in LA has given him an enhanced perspective on everything from personnel, team operations, game planning, working with an outstanding offensive staff and many other things that has helped him develop into an even more prepared coach in all aspects of the game. I believe his leadership skills have grown and his understanding of what it takes to have a highly collaborative one-team culture are now at a much higher level.”

The Falcons, who parted ways with Arthur Smith hours after the head coach posted his third consecutive 7-10 season, one in which the Falcons were once again in contention before fading after Thanksgiving, were rumored to be the frontrunners to bring aboard Bill Belichick, who as the head coach of the New England Patriots under owner Robert Kraft, guided the team to six Super Bowl titles. But, ultimately, the Falcons, after conducting two rounds of interviews with Belichick, tabbed Morris to be the 19th head coach in team history.

“I am overjoyed for the opportunity for my family and I to return to Atlanta as the Falcons head coach,” said Morris shortly after he was hired last month. “We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans. I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team.”

This Falcons team – equipped with a stable of young, dynamic playmakers coming into their prime and a stout defense – is expected to be a contender in the NFC next season. During his end-of-season press conference following the dismissal of Smith, who was named the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers shortly thereafter, Blank delivered some fairly pointed comments about the state of the franchise:

“Our record against losing teams this year was abysmal, honestly, and Coach [Smith] would be the first to say that. Lots of reasons, but we lost a bunch of games we probably should not have lost or didn’t have to lose, if you will. I don’t think it was any one thing, and it was not like one point in time where you press a button and decide.

During his end-of-season press conference following the dismissal of head coach Arthur Smith, Falcons principal owner Arthur Blank addresses his team’s shortcomings this past season and the rationale for making the move // Photo Credit: Atlanta Falcons

“Beyond the personal side which makes it extraordinarily difficult and G-d willing it will always be that way—I never take these things lightly because of the impact on human beings. Professionally, it was just a number of factors that went into it and the fact that we ended up where we did after we had a schedule that was really to our favor… The gap between achieving and underachieving was much bigger than what I anticipated this year in a variety of ways.”

Blank, who has hired five coaches in his 21 seasons as Falcons owner, went on to address the evolving nature of the position of NFL head coach, which has certainly become even more time-consuming and prone to turnover through the years.

“I do think today being a head coach in the NFL is more demanding and more complex,” acknowledged the 81-year-old owner. “Players, I think, are coming into the NFL with a different set of life experiences today, often expectations, and so, I think a head coach, part of his job is to sometimes be a psychologist along with everything else and putting a team together with the right kind of chemistry … I do think that most coaches in the NFL would probably say their job compared to 10, 15, 20 years ago is more complicated today than it has been in the past.”

At Morris’ introductory press conference on Monday, Feb. 5, Blank was not present as he was recovering from a minor medical issue that had surfaced a couple days before. But naturally, his influence was ever palpable as his stewardship over the franchise came up during multiple questions.

Falcons GM Terry Fontenot at one point remarked, “Obviously, all owners are passionate – but man, I think we have the most passionate owner. He wants to win in the worst way. He’s no different than that passionate fan in the front. That’s who he is. You get calls at all hours of the night and him just talking about little things because that’s all he thinks about is winning and wanting to do everything he can do to win, and he’ll provide us anything, literally anything, to help us win.”

In his opening remarks to the assembled media, Morris, who last served as a head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-11, during which the Glazer family-owned franchise went 17-31, made a point of emphasizing the meaningfulness of his longtime friendship with the Blank family:

“I can’t express the joy that I have right now to be able to come back and work with the Blanks, to be able to come back and work with all these people around me that I’ve been with for years.”

In addition to the head coaching change, Blank also adjusted the chain of command in the front office. Longtime prominent NFL executive Rich McKay, the CEO of Blank’s sports operations and a former GM for both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, will not be involved in football-related decisions. Going forward, Morris and Fontenot will report directly to Blank, whereas before the head coach and GM would answer to McKay. In his new role, McKay – who was very involved with the head coach search – will represent the Falcons on league matters, serve on the rules-setting competition committee, and oversee Atlanta United.

In response to McKay’s shifting role, Blank said, “It is hard to quantify the positive things Rich has done to impact our organization over the last 21 years, laying a strong foundation for our football team and getting Mercedes-Benz Stadium built and functioning as one of the best in the world.”

read more: