The Atlanta Falcons will end their 2020 season on Sunday with a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game will mark the end of an extremely turbulent and unique season for the Falcons, and it will usher in an offseason that is expected to be filled with change.
Among the things changing is the team's head coach.
Atlanta parted ways with Dan Quinn after an 0-5 start to the season, and owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay named Raheem Morris as the team's interim head coach for the remainder of the year. Under Morris, the Falcons have shown great improvement on the defensive side of the ball and been competitive in a majority of the games they've played.
McKay confirmed that Morris would receive an interview for the head coaching vacancy after the season, and he has experience in that role from a three-year stint with the Buccaneers from 2009-11. Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was also promoted to the role Morris previously occupied when coaching changes were made, and he has a close relationship with the team's interim head coach. In his final media availability, Ulbrich advocated for Morris to get another shot as a head coach.
"I wanted to - this might be my last opportunity with you guys - give my endorsement of Raheem Morris as a head coach, whether it's here or somewhere else," Ulbrich said. "In this day and age, this current player's culture in the NFL, there's not a better candidate in my opinion. You have to have the ability to relate to the current player. You have to have the ability to create an environment for the current player that is not necessarily built in the old NFL world, in my opinion, for these kids to thrive. They're just not raised the same way, football is not played the same way. He's one of those rare guys that has that ability to create the environment that's necessary."
Morris, 44, has led Atlanta to a 4-6 record since taking over the lead role. Most recently, he helped the Falcons become the first team to hold the Kansas City Chiefs under 20 points this season and had Atlanta in position to send a game that nobody expected it to be competitive in to overtime.
What makes Morris a unique candidate for a head coaching position is his varied coaching background. A longtime defensive coach, Morris transitioned to the offensive side of the ball in 2016 to oversee Atlanta's wide receivers. Under Morris's direction, the Falcons' receivers developed into one of the best and deepest position groups on the team.
When the Falcons reshuffled their coaching staff after a poor start in 2019, Morris was named defensive coordinator and helped orchestrate a turnaround for that unit during the back half of the year. That knowledge of both sides of the ball has helped Morris in the role he currently occupies with Atlanta, and it's yet another reason why Ulbrich believes he's capable of leading an organization to success in the future.
"At the same time, he's just this guy that has this crazy brain, too. A guy that transitioned in a year to the offensive side of the ball - he's part of a 2016 offense that broke almost every offensive record known to man - with a defensive brain on him that he's a career defensive coach. Just to have the brain of both sides of the ball, to have the ability to connect with anyone from a CEO to everybody. He's special in that way, his ability to connect and motivate and relate and energize. I think given the opportunity this organization, this fan base, you're going to be very excited about what he can do for the Atlanta Falcons."