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Raheem Morris more prepared for second opportunity as NFL head coach

This isn't Raheem Morris' first time as a head coach. He led the Buccaneers from 2009-11 — and has learned and grown since then. 

ATLANTA — Fifteen years passed between Raheem Morris' first and second hiring as an NFL head coach.

Morris' initial opportunity came in 2009 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he held the position for three seasons. It is now 2024, and he was just introduced as the Atlanta Falcons head coach this past Monday.

His mindset is completely different this time around.

"It is 100%," Morris said. "When you're 32 years old, you've got all the answers. Just ask me, and I'll tell you.

"What you find out is it's a learning process every single day, and you'd better be able to lean on people and talk to people and find out what is the best thing that works. … I told (Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot) in my interview process, I said, 'Hey, I don't need to be the smartest person in the building. I want to hire. I want to have. I want to contribute. I want to collaborate with all the smart people that you've assembled.'"

Because in the last 15 years, Morris has worked for three different organizations, including the Falcons.

After he was released by the Buccaneers at the conclusion of the 2011 season and with a 17-31 overall record as head coach, he was picked up by the then-Washington Redskins as their secondary coach for three years. Mike Shanahan was the head coach from 2012-13 and then Jay Gruden took over in 2014.

Morris then came to Atlanta in 2015 as the assistant head coach/defensive pass-game coordinator. His title varied a bit, adding the wide receivers to his responsibilities and swapping defensive pass-game coordinator to offensive. In 2020, he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Dan Quinn was the head coach throughout Morris' original go-around with the Falcons, until the final 11 games of 2020 season when the Falcons parted ways with Quinn and Morris became the interim head coach.

The Falcons didn't keep Morris around after Atlanta went 4-7, instead choosing to hire former head coach Arthur Smith, so the Los Angeles Rams scooped him. Morris was the Rams defensive coordinator from 2021-23, a timeframe that featured a Super Bowl victory under the guidance of head coach Sean McVay.

Clearly, Morris was still willing to return to Atlanta.

"I think that was something that made an impression on us, was the hard times that he has gone through in the past," Falcons president Greg Beadles said. "He turned it into a learning. There's a lot of people in this industry, if it didn't work out somewhere that they're bitter about that and they can't let go of it. I definitely saw that in Raheem, he wanted to learn from it."

And he gives credit where credit is due.

Morris essentially thanked every head coach with whom he has worked with since his stint with the Buccaneers. All of them helped him grow both personally and professionally into the man he is today. He'll even provide examples.

"Some people aren't open in talking about their previous experiences, whether they went well or they didn't," Fontenot said. "Some people aren't very open about it, but the openness and the humility and the clear vision of the things that he's seen from all his experiences and how he's adapted, he's very open about that."

That's why Falcons leadership was confident in the decision to bring Morris back to Atlanta.

Morris is no longer 32 years old, thinking he has all the answers. He's 47 and asking questions, looking for answers. He'll be 48 as the 2024 season begins, doing the same thing. And he'll lean on the words once spoken to him more than two decades ago when he got his start in the league.

"I learned a long time ago in Tampa Bay from Jon Gruden when I took my first job in 2002, the first time Rich McKay hired me," Morris said, "and Jon always told us, 'You either get better or you get worse.'

"I've been in the process of getting better since those days and that moment leading up to this right now."

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

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