Raheem Morris’ Climb to the NFL Head Coach Position

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The 2024 National Football League (NFL) season has a record number of minority head coaches, including Raheem Morris. He’s in charge of the Atlanta Falcons, a position he landed, four years after the team overlooked him. He was hired ahead of decorated football coach Bill Belichick, who also interviewed for the job. He has an extensive coaching portfolio, which we’ll review in this article.

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Raheem Morris Wasn’t an NFL Player

Spotcovery-Raheem Morris’ Climb to the NFL Head Coach Position
Raheem Morris conducting a training session. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-Zero

When we think of a suitable head coach, more often than not, our minds gravitate towards former players. This is because ex-players have on-field and off-field experience which gives them an inside understanding of the game

However, not all players make great coaches and some great coaches never played the game at the highest level. Belichick is a great example. So Morris, who only played at the collegiate level for Hofstra University is in great company. 

Morris started his coaching career as a graduate assistant in his university’s team. He gained experience making scouting reports, and analyzing games. In 1999, Morris moved to Cornell University and doubled up as a special teams assistant and defensive backs coach. 

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NFL Coaching Experience

The former player’s first NFL coaching experience began as an intern with the New York Jets in 2001. The following year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired him as a defensive quality control coach. In his first year on the job, Morris improved the Buccaneers’ defense and helped them to win the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl (XXXVII). 

He then moved between roles, working as the defensive assistant, assistant defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. After that, he moved on to Kansas State for a season where he also improved their defensive statistics.

In 2007, Morris returned to Tampa Bay and by the end of the season, the team’s defensive numbers were some of the best in the league. 

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Rise to the Head Coach Position

Analysis of Raheem Morris’ hiring. Video Credit: ESPN

After working as the defensive coach, he became the defensive coordinator after the occupant of the position left. Within a short period, the head coach at the time John Gruden resigned and he was upgraded to the head coach position. 

His time as head coach saw the team progress through the seasons, leading with a 3-13 record at the end of 2009, almost making the playoffs in 2010 and giving rookies a record number of starts in the league in the franchise history. 

Despite such a good run, you’re always as good as your last game, and that’s what got Morris fired. In what turned out to be his last season, he lost 10 games consecutively and left the owners with no choice but to relieve him of his duties. 

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Atlanta Falcons

The now-established defensive back coach didn’t stay out in the cold for long as the Washington Redskins sought his services. After three years, Morris was on the move again, joining the Atlanta Falcons as assistant head coach, during which he returned to the Super Bowl. However, the New England Patriots defeated the Falcons. 

Morris served in different capacities before rising to the head coach position. He served as: 

  • Wide receiver coach
  • Secondary Coach
  • NFL defensive passing game coordinator

In 2020, Morris took over as interim head coach following Dan Quinn’s dismissal but left at the end of the season to be the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. This move proved to be worthwhile, as Morris won his second Super Bowl. After the 2023 season, the Atlanta Falcons hired Morris as the head coach.

Raheem Morris has gradually worked his way to the top of the NFL. He’s proven that you don’t need to have played the game at the highest level to be a good coach. In every position, he’s improved the teams he’s worked with, demonstrating his value. 

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