What to expect from the Falcons and coach Raheem Morris next season
Twelve years after his first head coaching opportunity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had ended, Raheem Morris declared he was home as he was introduced as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
This was something he’d been preparing for since his last day in Tampa in January 2012. Now, in the same division and one state north, Morris is running an NFL team again.
Morris, general manager Terry Fontenot and team president Greg Beadles spoke Monday for the first time since landing their new head coach. Here’s what we learned.
The quarterback question
For all the happy, smiling faces Morris and Fontenot presented Monday, the reality is simple: If Atlanta doesn’t solve its quarterback issue, then not much is going to change from the past six Falcons seasons — all of which ended under .500.
While Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke remain under contract next season, Morris said the Falcons would look in free agency, explore trades and consider the draft.
Neither Ridder nor Heinicke were mentioned. So far, Morris and Fontenot have had “very limited” talks about the quarterback position.
“When you get those guys that are elite processors, when you get those guys that are decision makers,” Morris said. “When you get those guys that can just cut it loose and play ball and also play with those great fundamental techniques that we talked about — the base, the balance, the short hitches in the pocket, some of those things — it makes you excited to go out there and find those things.
“And sometimes, it’s not easy to see.”
Figure this to be priority No. 1 this offseason for Atlanta.
It’s a buzz word throughout the league. Fontenot and Morris worked together by FaceTime when Morris was finishing things up in Los Angeles and will now collaborate in person.
Both made it clear that is how they are going to operate — the difference being they report to Blank now instead of CEO Rich McKay.
“In my interview process, I said, ‘Hey, I don’t need to be the smartest person in the building,'” Morris said. “I want to hire. I want to have. It want to contribute. I want to collaborate with all the smart people that you’ve assembled.”
Morris specifically saw how the Rams operated with general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay, and wanted to find that type of relationship with a general manager.
What Morris learned in Tampa
Morris admitted when he got the Buccaneers job at age 32, he thought he had every answer to every question. That didn’t work. So he figured out how to lean on people over the last 12 years. He went to multiple organizations — the Washington Commanders, Falcons and Los Angeles Rams — and saw different processes.
Morris said the maturity within the profession is something he learned, too. For instance, in Tampa Bay, he ended up taking over defensive playcalling at points during his tenure. On Monday, he said his plan is to let new defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake call plays.
“Me being able to be on both sides of the ball so I can really be involved in how we handle situations, how we go about our game management,” Morris said. “All those type of things just so you can be the entirety of the head coach and control the football team the way you want to control it.”
Fontenot’s “input” was clearly large
Another thing made pretty clear was that Fontenot had a clear say in the hire. Initially, the Falcons said Fontenot would have “input” in the process, according to a Jan. 8 press release, with Blank and McKay running the search.