ATLANTA (AP) – Raheem Morris knows he will be among the candidates interviewed following the season as the Atlanta Falcons seek their coach for 2021 and beyond.
As far as Morris is concerned, that interview process began as soon as he was made the interim coach when Dan Quinn was fired following the team’s 0-5 start. Morris has had regular conversations with Falcons President Rich McKay and team owner Arthur Blank the last two months. Morris says each conversation stands as part of his interview.
“Really, every single day I communicate with Rich McKay,” Morris said Wednesday. “Twice a week I communicate with Arthur Blank. All those things are looked at as interviews.”
Morris said his dealings with media, helping to navigate the team through the coronavirus pandemic, and his meetings with players and assistant coaches are his body of work for McKay and Blank to consider.
“Everything you do in these moments are interview-type moments,” Morris said. “So everything you do right now is an interview.”
The Falcons (4-10) are 4-5 under Morris, including three consecutive losses entering Sunday’s game at defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
The record and management’s possible desire for a fresh start could work against Morris in the search. Morris could be helped by support from his players, including quarterback Matt Ryan, who said Morris “has done a great job” in his transition from defensive coordinator.
“It was a difficult position to be put in,” Ryan said Wednesday. “He obviously loved and respected Dan, as we all did. … I think he did it his way for sure and I think guys appreciate that. He is true to who he is every day. He’s very upfront with the guys. He’s very clear with the messaging. He’s very clear about what he expects from us, and I think guys have responded well to that.”
The Falcons will have a close look on Sunday at Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who could be high on the list of candidates. Bieniemy and San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh are among the league’s top minority candidates who may be considered by the Falcons and other teams.
The Falcons fired general manager Thomas Dimitroff with Quinn. The team announced last week virtual interviews had been conducted with former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith and Atlanta’s director of college scouting, Anthony Robinson, as they ramped up the search for Dimitroff’s replacement.
It’s possible the team could allow a new GM to lead or participate in the coaching search.
Morris, 44, was 17-31 in three seasons as Tampa Bay’s coach from 2009-11. He has coached on offense and defense in his six seasons in Atlanta. His move from wide receivers coach to secondary coach midway through last season was seen as a key to a strong finish in a 7-9 season.
The Falcons already are assured of their most losses since at least 2014. This is Atlanta’s third straight losing season, prompting speculation the team could be bound for a rebuild, including coaches and players.
Ryan says Morris “is going to be a really good head coach in this league, whether it’s here or somewhere else in the future.”
“I think he’s learned a lot during his time here,” Ryan said. “He learned a lot during his last stint as a head coach down in Tampa. I think his travels along the way and his experiences have put him in a spot where he’s going to be a really good head coach in this league.”
McKay told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that Morris has “earned that right” to be interviewed.
Morris said the confirmation he’ll be included in the interview process “means a lot.”
“When those situations come you’ve got to be ready and prepared to talk about your plan and what’s going to happen and what you’d like to get accomplished,” Morris said.
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