In just five years as a head coach, Sean McVay has developed quite the coaching tree with the Los Angeles Rams. Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor were both hired as head coaches in 2019 after serving as offensive coordinator’s under McVay. After leading the Rams to the number one defense in 2020, Brandon Staley became the first defensive coach under McVay to land a head coaching job. Kevin O’Connell was the latest McVay apprentice to become a head coach last offseason when he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings.
Also interviewing for the Vikings last offseason was defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Morris interviewed twice for the Vikings, but was beaten out by O’Connell. The Vikings were the only team to interview Morris despite the Rams defense playing a key role in the team’s Super Bowl championship.
Under Morris, the Rams defense finished fifth in DVOA last season and ninth in EPA per play. The defense had this success despite Morris learning and coaching a new scheme on the fly.
Despite Staley being hired the season before, Morris was passed over even after winning a Super Bowl.
Over the past few seasons, McVay’s staff has been gutted unlike any other in the NFL. However, sitting at 5-10, the Rams may be able to keep some consistency on their staff this offseason. Raheem Morris and Thomas Brown have the best chances of getting looked at from other teams. With Morris’ experience as a coordinator and former head coach, he would likely get a more serious look.
Still, opposing teams don’t typically look at coaches from teams with losing records when making hiring decisions. Despite being a hot candidate coming into the season, that may no longer be the case for Morris.
Lots of factors go into the success of a head coach, some real, some luck, some arbitrary. If coaches are smart, they learn from experience. I've spent 22 years talking to football coaches. Morris is deserving of a serious look.— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) December 28, 2022
If Morris doesn’t get looked at this offseason, it truly will be disappointing. Morris is extremely smart when it comes to football and very few are as well-respected and liked by their players. For a team that is 5-10, the defense has been the Rams’ strength, but they have simply lacked a complimentary offense.
Prior to last week’s game against the Broncos, the Rams offense had the fourth-worst three-and-out rate in the NFL and fifth-worst three-and-out rate following a defensive turnover.
The Rams defense this season ranks 16th in overall DVOA, and seventh against the run. They hold the same rankings in EPA as well. Additionally, in a NFL full of bend, but don’t break defenses, the Rams have one of the best. Morris currently leads the number two red zone defense in the NFL, allowing a touchdown on just 44.7 percent of red zone trips.
A lot of this has been with Jalen Ramsey not playing at his typical all-pro level and Aaron Donald injured over the last four weeks. The Rams have also had a lot of youth in the secondary led by Derion Kendrick, Russ Yeast, and Cobie Durant.
At the end of the season, there could be as many as six or seven head coach openings. The question becomes, how many of those would be a fit for Raheem Morris?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see three or four other head coaching jobs open up as well. Kliff Kingsbury could be on his way out of Arizona. The Cardinals are 5-15 in their last 20 games and have won just one of their last 12 games at home.
Lovie Smith was a fallback hire last season and could get let go from the Houston Texans following a 2-12-1 season thus far. Kevin Stefanski is another name to keep an eye on in Cleveland. That doesn’t even mention the Los Angeles Chargers potentially replacing Brandon Staley with Sean Payton.
Morris has two things working against him when it comes to the hiring cycle. For starters, he is a defensive coach. In an offensive league focused on quarterbacks, those are the coaches that tend to get looks first. Secondly, minority candidates tend to get looked over.
Out of the 10 head coaching hires last offseason, four came on the defensive side of the ball and only two were minority hires. The season before, two of the seven head coaching hires came with defensive backgrounds. Only two of the seven were also minority hires.
Starting with the current openings, Steve Wilkes has a good chance of being retained by the Panthers as they’ve played extremely hard under the interim head coach. With a top-five pick, the Colts will likely look on the offensive side to pair with a rookie quarterback.
The Broncos are slightly more complicated as they could look to pair an offensive mind with Russell Wilson. However, with an elite defense, they could go the defensive route if that coach is able to bring a strong offensive coordinator with him. Ejiro Evero could get a first look here.
With other potential openings, it’s all speculation. However, DeMeco Ryans in San Francisco and Jonathan Gannon in Philadelphia are two hot defensive names that will get a serious look this offseason when it comes to head coach opportunities. Dan Quinn is another defensive name to watch in Dallas.
As it stands, the Rams currently at 5-10. There simply may not be enough openings for Morris to get a serious look this offseason. Head coaching jobs are a lot about timing. Steve Spagnuolo got a head coaching job with the Rams because of his game plan against the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Morris may have to wait until next offseason to get another chance.
While it would be nice to see Morris get promoted professionally and the Rams benefit with compensatory picks, it may not happen this offseason. It’s very possible that Morris is back as the defensive coordinator with the Rams for a third season in 2023.