The Atlanta Falcons name defensive coordinator Raheem Morris the interim head coach for at least the remainder of the season, but Morris is on a mission to win big and ultimately seal the vacant head coaching job.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the media earlier this week that Morris could be a candidate for the franchise position if he goes 11-0.
Morris, 44, is ready to take on the challenge.
“I’m the head coach right now of the Atlanta Falcons [and] I’ve got 11 games guaranteed to do that,” Morris said via ESPN. “As a coach, fortunately for us, we focus one game at a time. Our job is to go out and win one game and go 1-0 for the next 11 weeks.”
The Falcons schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. Before their Bye, they’ll face the Vikings, Lions, Panthers against, and the Broncos. All of the teams have a lot more wins in their books than Atlanta.
Morris Is Focused on Vikings Win
While Morris wants the challege of winning 11, he’s going to take it game by game and right now, he’s focused on beating the Minnesota in their next matchup.
“I am completely focused on the Minnesota Vikings and how to get our win against the Minnesota Vikings this week, because the Minnesota Vikings don’t care about me going 11-0. They care about trying to get a win against us. And we’re trying to get a win against them, period,” he said via ESPN.
The Vikings are also suffering a losing season, thought they have a win under their belt unlike Atlanta. Last week, they lost in a close 27-26 to the Seattle Seahawks. Minnesota nearly had the game in their hands until Seahawks QB1 Russell Wilson and wideout DK Metcalf connected for a 6-yard touchdown with just a few seconds left on the clock. Still, the Vikings covered the spread as a 6.5-point road underdog and showed what they capable of.
Morris Plays Key Role in 2019 Turnaround
While some believe Morris isn’t the best fit for the job, he is the only coach on the team with the most experience and played a huge role in the Falcons defensive turnaround last season.
In 2019, Atlanta was 1-7 at the midway point of the season then finished with a strong 6-2 finish. This was mainly due to the fact that Dan Quinn handed the reigns over to Morris and let him call the shots on defense.
To put the ‘drastic’ turnaround into perspective, here’s where the Falcons ranked in the first eight games (per AtlantaFalcons.com):
- Third-down conversion percentage: No. 32 (53%)
- Points allowed per game: No. 31 (29.6)
- Total QB rating: No. 31 (117.3)
- Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 32 (66%)
- Total takeaways: No. 32 (2)
Here are where the Falcons ranked in the second half of the season:
- Third-down conversion percentage: No. 1 (38%)
- Points allowed per game: No. 5 (16.9)
- Total QB rating: No. 5 (78.7)
- Red zone touchdown percentage: No. 5 (38%)
- Total takeaways: No. 7 (13)
Morris put the spark in Atlanta then and now he’s in control to do it on both sides of the ball.
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Morris Has Strong Message for Players
Morris has a message for the team and what they’ll be focusing one now.
“The message to the team is that we’ve got to go out and force our will on our opponent,” Morris said via ESPN. “And we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to score and get the ball back. No matter what you’re doing, if you’re on offense, your job’s to score; if you’re on defense, it’s to get the ball back; if you’re on the return unit, it’s to score; and if you’re on a coverage unit, it’s to get the ball back.
“Those things are what we’re going to have to do. And the only way you go about getting wins is to force your will on your opponent whatever it is at that time, at that moment. … So that’s the biggest difference in what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
The former Tampa Bay head coach also is taking advantage of his new position as he already made some coaching changes.