Ever since Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams teams became title contenders, teams around the NFL have looked to duplicate his success.
Four assistants from McVay’s coaching staff have been plucked for NFL head coaching jobs since the end of the 2018 season, a year in which the Rams won the NFC.
One coach that has yet to reap the rewards of the “McVay Effect” is Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. The former Buccaneers head coach joined the Rams’ coaching staff in 2021 after spending the previous nine seasons as an assistant coach in Washington and Atlanta, briefly serving as the Falcons’ interim head coach in 2020.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes Morris deserves a second chance at being an NFL head coach.
Tomlin called Morris ‘the best coach I know’ in a podcast interview
Tomlin and Morris’s relationship as coaches goes back nearly 20 years. The two were defensive coaches together under Jon Gruden with the Buccaneers from 2002-05.
Both coaches left Tampa Bay in 2006 and in 2007, Tomlin became the head coach of the Steelers, a job he still holds. In an appearance on the “Pivot Podcast,” Tomlin, who is Black, was asked what it is like to be the example of the success of the Rooney Rule, a rule that requires teams to interview a minority candidate for open coach and executive roles, by his former player, Ryan Clark.
Tomlin said he doesn’t “identify with being the example” of minority coaches getting a chance to become a head coach due to the Rooney Rule. Instead, Tomlin said he thinks about coaches he respects who deserve an opportunity that ultimately don’t get it, such as Morris.
“I’ve been a coach my whole adult life. I’ve been in the National Football League for over 20 years. I know the coaches, and I know some of the guys being denied are in the top 32. Raheem Morris is the best coach I know and have ever been around that don’t have a head job,” Tomlin said. “I don’t have a problem saying it, I’ve never had a problem saying it, I’ve been saying it. So, during those times man, when they’re talking about me, and they’re relating the Rooney Rule and the things that I’ve done and all of that, I’m thinking about those guys, whether or not they’re going to get the opportunity to prove what I know about them.”
As mentioned earlier, Morris previously had a head coaching job with the Buccaneers. But that came over 10 years ago. Morris was the head coach in Tampa for three seasons (2009-11). After going 3-13 in his first year, Morris coached the Buccaneers to a seven-win turnaround in 2010 to go 10-6. But a 4-12 season – which saw the Buccaneers lose their final 10 games – in 2011 cost Morris his job.
Morris briefly got a second chance as a head coach in 2020, replacing Dan Quinn on an interim basis when the Falcons fired him during that season. Morris went 4-2 in his first six games as the interim head coach following the Falcons’ 0-5 start to the season. However, Atlanta finished the year on a five-game losing streak and Morris was not brought back.
McVay Also Endorses Morris to Become a Head Coach Soon
The Falcons’ decision to not bring Morris back opened the door for the Rams to hire him as their defensive coordinator prior to the 2021 season.
Morris’s first year in Los Angeles couldn’t have gone any better. His defensive unit ranked as the fifth-best in the league in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. The defense was also a catalyst for the Rams’ Super Bowl run, allowing 20 or fewer points in three of the four games, including the Super Bowl LVI win over the Bengals.
In an interview with Rams Wire’s Cameron DaSilva, McVay made a prediction on what might happen to one of his top assistants following the 2022 season.
“I’m so grateful [to have Morris],” McVay said. “His leadership and we have a close friendship, and his daily demeanor, he’s just got such a great zest for life. He’s got a great way of being able to connect to the players, but being demanding on them. He sees the game in such a unique lens. And he’s got great gameday demeanor. I think he makes great decisions. He’s got great poise. I’m so grateful, but I do think if he continues to do what he’s doing, I wouldn’t be shocked if I’m saying, ‘Man, I’m gonna miss that guy’ next year.”
Kevin O’Connell, who was the Rams’ offensive coordinator from 2020-21, became the latest McVay assistant to turn head coach this offseason when the Vikings hired him to replace Mike Zimmer.
While numerous teams have tried to replicate McVay’s mind by hiring offensive coaches, the Rams coach has seen one of his defensive coaches get tabbed for a head coaching job, too. Following the 2020 season, the Charges plucked Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to become their head coach.