Overreaction Tuesday: Raheem Morris is an NFL Head Coach

morris raheem 2020

This is not an advocation piece for Raheem Morris to be promoted to full-time head coach in Atlanta next year. Rather, it is simply my opinion that Morris has proven his value to, at the very least, warrant invitations to interview for future head coaching vacancies. If he doesn’t prove to be the guy for the Falcons, then so be it, but he at least needs recognition for what he has done with this team.

Forget what he did with Tampa Bay. That was ten years ago, and Morris has since had many successful seasons as a coordinator. At 44, he has been around the game a lot longer and has picked up knowledge that he lacked his first time around. Although I am in my twenties, anyone in their 40’s can attest to how much smarter you are at 43 than you were at 33. His record as it stands as interim is a plus, but what if he went 11-0 as interim? Would fans be supportive of him as head coach then? Whether you are talking about any candidate, most of them are going to have zero NFL head coaching experience or will have a losing NFL head coaching record; Jim Harbaugh would be the lone exception to this.

Morris, who comes from a defensive background, might not possess the knowledge on how to defend offenses to the extent as someone like Robert Saleh does, but he sure as hell understands how to lead a group of men. He has kept Atlanta competitive in each game since taking over as interim, which is especially impressive due to Dirk Koetter’s ability to render such an unproductive offense. Do people not understand that the current coaching staff is Quinn’s and not Morris’? That is who is losing these games. There is no doubt in my mind — if given the job — Morris would put together a superior staff that maximizes the roster’s talent.

I support Morris as a man and future head coach, but I still maintain that Arthur Blank should hire a coordinator that brings an established system, whether it be on offense or defense. The CardinalsBrownsPackersColtsChiefsRaidersRamsVikingsPatriotsSaints, and 49ers all have found success with head coaches that brought their respective offensive or defensive scheme to the team.

I believe this to be the best course of action because of the cohesion within the head coach’s system despite coaching turnover. Quality head coaches surround themselves with quality coordinators. Dan Quinn’s decision to hire Kyle Shanahan will forever be a great one, but what happens when someone like Shanahan leaves their coordinating position for a head coaching job elsewhere? Fans are seeing the effect firsthand; there is an unsuccessful attempt at replicating or maintaining the system. Instead, hiring the individual responsible for the system as head coach eliminates that possibility.

This is not a full-proof way of hiring a head coach in the NFL. There are plenty of examples of coordinators being hired for their system, but for whatever reason, they fail to replicate the production from the previous team. Adam GaseMatt NagyMatt Patricia, and Dan Quinn are prime examples of hiring a candidate based on their prior team’s success without considering if they were truly responsible.

For a large part of their head coaching tenures, the aforementioned coordinators’ expertise was the weak link. Gase’s offense and quarterback development in Miami and New York have been awful. Nagy’s offense and quarterback development in Chicago, outside of one year, has been hollow. Patricia’s defense in Detroit was essentially swiss cheese, and Quinn’s defenses in Atlanta never amounted to anything close to Seattle’s legendary Legion of Boom.

Clearly, hiring a coach for their system is not the only formula for winning in this league. There are “player’s coaches,” who typically lead democratically and peacefully and are often adored by their players; there are autocratic disciplinarian types who are all business, and there are mad geniuses who have mastered the X’s and O’s of the game.

Instead of a sexy playbook, finding the best leader of men could prove equally valuable. Being a head coach has more to do with establishing a culture with high standards of commitment, accountability, and trust than it does with the Xs and Os. Brian FloresRon RiveraSean McDermott, and Joe Judge have each shifted their organization’s identity, resulting in different forms of success.

That is exactly what Raheem Morris is doing with the Falcons, and many players have publicly supported their interim head coach. Russell Gage voiced his fondness for Morris after the Raiders game, “He definitely has a head-coach mentality. He brings a lot of energy to this team, and he does a great job of getting us up. He understands what we want and our standard in this organization.”

The continuity provided by hiring Morris would benefit the players and improve the chances of winning right away. The NFL is so closely competitive that on any given Sunday, a team can win. The talent, for the most part, on each NFL roster is so close that the distinction between winning and losing games sometimes comes from game planning and motivation. Coaches and players can feel when their opponent is just not 100% into the game, and the best ones capitalize on this.

There have been six wild card teams to win the Super Bowl since the expansion of the playoffs. The Raiders, BroncosRavensSteelersGiants, and Packers struggled through the regular season but found a spark to go on odd-defying championship runs. Aside from the Broncos, the previously mentioned champions were widely considered less talented than all of their opponents. What is the common theme? Capitalizing on a galvanizing moment to unite the team with an “us versus the world” mentality. Sometimes in this league, talent does not beat hard work when talent does not work hard. Raheem Morris might be that Brian Flores-Esque coach who players kill themselves for regardless of the situation.

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