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Instant analysis: Why Raheem Morris fits with the Falcons

Morris returns to the Falcons as the organization's 19th head coach. It's a role the organization already knows he carries well. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Raheem Morris fits with the Falcons as the organization's 19th head coach in franchise history because Morris already fit.

Morris is already someone Falcons leadership liked. He's already someone the fan base knows. He's already someone longest-tenured current Falcons players respect. In a sense, the Falcons hired one of their own, someone they are more than familiar with, after a long and extensive interview process that spanned 18 days and 14 candidates.

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In the end, the Falcons hired a familiar face. Morris was with the organization for six seasons from 2015-20. He was the Falcons interim head coach for the final 11 games of the 2020 season, after the Falcons parted ways with Dan Quinn. After starting the season 0-5, the Falcons went 4-7 under Morris to finish out the season. At the time, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said it was the right choice to promote Morris to interim head coach.

"He has the right kind of enthusiasm to lead the players in a positive way," Blank said in 2020. "He's worked with our receivers; he understands that side of the ball well. He's been a defensive coordinator. He's very positive, he's ready to go.

"I know we made the right choice with Raheem and we'll see where he takes us. The players will definitely be supportive of him."

Player support has been a constant staple of Morris' resume during his 20-plus years coaching in the league. Everywhere he goes, Morris carries an aura of respect around him. That includes his most recent coaching stint with the Los Angeles Rams as their defensive coordinator.

"The guy is coded to respect everyone, to build a relationship with everyone no matter where you're at in the organization," Rams general manager Les Snead said in his end-of-season news conference, via ESPN. "What's awesome is, as he does that, you just see the respect flow back in his direction. He's coded for that. It's a superpower that I think would help any organization."

Things have changed significantly for Morris and the Falcons organization since going their separate ways three seasons ago. Though the Falcons interviewed Morris in 2021 for the head coaching job that ultimately went to Arthur Smith, the team Morris returns to is night-and-day different from the one he left.

The team Morris knew in 2020 had to make significant cuts to the roster to get under the salary cap the following year. The team Morris knew spent two seasons trying to get right by the cap, finally able to make moves in free agency this past offseason in 2023, bulking up its defense with the likes of Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss. The team Morris knew at the time of his departure was still months away from drafting Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, a year away from drafting Drake London at No. 8 and two years removed from the 2023's first-round acquisition of Bijan Robinson. And, of course, the team Morris once knew had stability at the quarterback position with Matt Ryan under center.

Since then, the Falcons have seen the likes of Ryan, Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke in the pocket. They're in need of quarterback in 2024. However, they've beefed up their defense, added weapons on offense and found health by way of the salary cap. Now they are looking for sustained success from top to bottom after three consecutive seasons with a 7-10 record.

As Blank said in his joint press conference with team CEO Rich McKay after announcing the release of Smith as the Falcons head coach, Atlanta is in win-now mode. The team needed someone to lead them to more wins.

They hope the person who'll lead them there is a familiar face.

Ahead of his arrival in Atlanta, we take a look back at Raheem Morris' previous tenure with the Falcons.

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