The Minnesota Vikings have added a name to their list of head coaching candidates following an impressive defensive performance during Wildcard Weekend.
Minnesota on Tuesday requested permission to interview Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris following his team’s dominant defensive performance over the Arizona Cardinals the night before.
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Peter Schrager, of Fox Sports and the NFL Network, broke the news via Twitter on the morning of January 18.
Morris Seeking Second Shot at Head Coaching Position
A second crack for Morris at an NFL head coaching position has been a long time in the making, but his team’s performance in the final game of Wildcard Weekend undoubtedly helped vault him into the conversation for the Vikings’ top job.
The Rams drubbed the Cardinals by a score of 34-11 Monday night, shutting out their division rivals in the first half and making quarterback Kyler Murray, an early season MVP favorite, look less than pedestrian. Murray completed just 19 of 34 passes for 137 yards and 2 INTs, including a disastrous pick-6 in the second quarter that put LA up 21-0. Beyond that, the Rams defense completely stymied the Arizona rushing attack, holding the Cardinals to 61 yards on the ground as a team.
One quality performance in a high-profile game is never going to be enough to elevate an assistant to a head coaching spot, but Morris has been building a strong case for another go-round as a head coach since he washed out after three years leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Morris started his career with the Bucs in 2002 as a defensive assistant. He worked in that capacity for six of the next seven seasons, with a break in 2006 when he spent one year as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State University. He was promoted from the position of defensive backs coach to head coach of the Bucs organization in 2009. Morris held the job for three years, producing one winning season in 2010 (10-6) and an overall record of 17-31, per Pro Football History.
He resumed coaching defensive backs with the Washington Football Team the following year and remained there for three seasons before being named the assistant head coach/passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. Three years later, he took over in Atlanta as defensive coordinator, a job he held for two seasons. He spent a stint in 2020 as the Falcons interim head coach, leading the team to a 4-7 record.
Morris landed in Los Angeles this season, leading a defense of all-star talent to a 12-5 record and a dominant victory over the Cardinals Monday, despite being hampered at the linebacker position. The Rams defensive unit has been in, or around, the top 10 in defensive rating throughout the course of the season, per Pro Football Focus.
Morris Among Strong Candidate Pool Interviewing For Vikings HC Job
Morris is a late addition to a party of potential head coaches in Minnesota that has become a veritable who’s who list of NFL coordinators.
Chad Graff, Vikings reporter for The Athletic Minnesota, compiled a list of HC interview requests the Vikings had made as of Saturday, January 15 and posted it to social media.
“Now that they’ve got GM interviews set up, the Vikings’ search committee is putting in requests for head coach candidates including — per @AdamSchefter and @TomPelissero — Todd Bowles, Nathaniel Hackett, Jonathan Gannon, Kellen Moore, DeMeco Ryans and Dan Quinn. More expected,” Graff tweeted.
The fan base in Minnesota appears split on the idea of whether to hire a defensive-minded head coach or one with a proven history of offensive success to lead the Vikings. On the one hand, the offense in Minnesota is loaded with talent. Both running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson are Pro-Bowlers, while polarizing signal caller Kirk Cousins produced one of Pro Football Focus’s top QB grades of the 2021 season. It would make sense to hire a coach who could take advantage of the Vikings’ greatest attributes.
On the other hand, the Vikings defense struggled mightily this season and was near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories. The team is hurting for secondary help and a better pass rush off of the edge. Hiring a defensive specialist to run the franchise might make Minnesota a more well-rounded team, which could help the Vikings expedite their return to the postseason after two years absent.
A hire like Morris is intriguing, as he has extensive experience on both sides of the football and nearly 60 games of head coaching experience on his resumé, but he’ll have a lot of competition to conquer if hopes to stand on the Vikings sideline in 2022.