Falcons hiring of Raheem Morris has Rich McKay’s fingerprints all over it

NFL: DEC 07 Saints at Falcons

The Falcons head coaching search was an absolute circus, and it ended in an unlikely destination — Raheem Morris.

Since Arthur Smith’s termination, Bill Belichick was pegged as the favorite to land the open gig in Atlanta. There were reports from credible pundits that Arthur Blank was “desperate” to hire Belichick; another went as far as to say she “expected” the Falcons to hire Belichick. There was clearly an internal conflict over the idea of hiring him.

Albert Breer recently discussed the Falcons’ decision to go with Raheem Morris over Belichick and had this to say, “Arthur Blank wanted to hire, and I have that on good authority, Arthur Blank wanted to hire Bill Belichick, the head coach.

It was everything else that was going to have to happen, and the amount of people around him that Bill is going to need here, and the amount of people outgoing because of it. I think people in that building knew like ‘hey if Bill comes here I probably won’t be here for much longer,’ and so those people wind up getting in Blank’s ear,” Breer continued.

My initial reaction to the Falcons announcing Raheem Morris as the head coach was a rumor that Bill Simmons heard. Yes, that Bill Simmons, who isn’t an NFL insider, reported rumors of an internal dispute over Blank’s pursuit of Belichick.

“The Atlanta thing, there’s a lot of buzz going around right now about the Atlanta job, that the executives are there are trying — and I’ve heard this, I’m telling you from so many different people — basically Arthur Blank wants to hire Bill Belichick, and all the front office people in Atlanta don’t want to hire Belichick because it’s like any big company — sport franchises are like microcosms of all big companies,” Simmons said on his podcast, via the New York Post.

“The people that run the franchise, they just want to keep their jobs, they’re in job preservation mode, so they’re like ‘Maybe we hire Raheem Morris.’ Yeah, you hire Raheem Morris, he’s young, you’ll have your job for five more years”

Simmons said that earlier in the week, which is a bit ironic considering the Falcons ended up hiring Morris over Belichick. Simply put, Arthur Blank chose Rich McKay over the greatest coach of all time.

I don’t want you to get confused. I preferred anyone over Belichick, who was only going to be in Atlanta for a couple of years. The architect of The Patriot Way had ran stale and hadn’t shown an ability to develop a young quarterback, make successful decisions in the personnel department, and didn’t fit the Falcons timeline.

Still, I think it’s quite notable that Rich McKay somehow convinced Blank to go away from his top target. How do you go from having Raheem Morris as your interim head coach three years ago, letting him walk out of Flowery Branch, only to bring him back three years later?

Morris has a long-time relationship with McKay. He was the GM of the Buccaneers when Morris began coaching there in 2002, and the pair spent years in Atlanta. It’s unfortunate for Raheem Morris because he’s a qualified candidate who deserves a second opportunity as a head coach, but the optics surrounding his hire are terrible for Blank and McKay.

At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well Alex, McKay is out of football operations.” That is true, at least publicly. The Falcons announced that Raheem Morris and Terry Fontenot will report directly to Arthur Blank and that Rich McKay will not be involved in day-to-day operations.

Firstly, I don’t even know how Falcons fans can believe anything that comes out of Flowery Branch. It wasn’t until Arthur Smith’s post-firing press conference that we learned he and Fontenot were reporting to McKay more than two dozen times a week. Fans were under the impression that McKay wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations; that was a lie.

Secondly, the fact that he might be out of football ops doesn’t change the fact that Blank went with a candidate other than his top target, which gives the impression that he took the advice of his confidants, the closest of which is McKay.

This is just a terrible look for the Falcons.

Photographer: Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire
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