Raheem Morris names Falcons leaders with MJ-like qualities


The 10-part ESPN documentary "The Last Dance" has captivated a country thirsty for any kind of content to scratch its sports itch, and it's reminded everyone of just how special a competitor Michael Jordan was.

A six-time NBA champion, Jordan reveled in not only dominating his opponents but in getting the very best out of those playing alongside of him. While that approach might have left some hard feelings in its wake, there's no denying that Jordan got results.


Perhaps nobody else across all of sports has possessed that indominable drive to compete and succeed, but Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris does believe some of the leaders within Atlanta's locker room have similar qualities.

"We've got a few guys on our team that have some of those qualities," Morris said. "Julio [Jones], in his own way. Matt Ryan, in his own way. Debo [Deion Jones], in his own way. Grady [Jarrett], in his own way. So, when they watch [The Last Dance] as a leader [they see] how to pull a person along, how to bring them along, how to get people to a different level."

Julio Jones and Ryan were among the Falcons' four permanent captains last season, but Deion Jones and Jarrett, who was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2019, are emerging stars on the field and leaders in the locker room. If Atlanta is to make a return to the postseason in 2020, it will need all four players to have a big hand in making that happen.

During his time with the Bulls, Jordan was known for drawing every ounce of talent and fight out of his teammates. There is talent on the Falcons' roster, but after the organization parted ways with several veterans this offseason, there is plenty of youth as well. It will be up to the Falcons' leaders to set the tone early on and provide the standard for those players to live up to.

"The Last Dance" has given Morris a new perspective on Jordan as well. Atlanta's defensive coordinator was 14 years old when Jordan won his first title with the Bulls, and he watched the dynasty unfold from afar. By his own admission, Morris wasn't a big fan of Jordan at the time, preferring to root for those who could unseat the reigning champions.

"I was always kind of one to go against the Bulls a little bit and cheer for the [New York] Knicks in those days and some of the other guys that were losing to them," Morris said. "But, I realized watching the documentary, as I'm watching Michael Jordan play, I realized I spent half my life hating the guy that I really love the most.

"His competitive spirit, what he does, how he is with his teammates, it's somehow what we always want our guys to do. We want them to be more demanding. With that comes a price at times, people say you could be considered as a bad teammate. With that comes a price at times, that you could be too hard on somebody or you could have a way about yourself that doesn't come across the right way. … I think he was able to get the best out of his guys and himself, and it pushed everybody to excellence."

If the Falcons can embrace some of the rules Jordan lived by and employ them for the 2020 season, they may have a chance to chase excellence, themselves.

Related Content