With just three weeks left to go in the NFL season there will be a lot of eyes on the head coaching carousel, especially as we get closer to ‘black Monday’. Ever since Sean McVay took over as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, it’s been almost customary at this point for other teams to poach from his staff.
Following a 5-12 season, the Rams are back in the NFC playoff race, meaning McVay’s staff will likely once again be hot commodity in this year’s head coaching search. According to The Athletic’s Diana Russini, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will be one of the hot names to know in this cycle.
Morris interviewed for a few NFL coaching jobs last cycle, most notably the Indianapolis Colts head coaching position. He was a finalist, but ended up being beaten out by Shane Steichen.
While Morris will be a name that gets floated around once again in this head coaching cycle, landing a position will still be an uphill climb for the Rams defensive coordinator. Depending on how many head coaching job open up, there is still a good chance that Morris is back with the Rams next season.
In today’s NFL, owners are looking for the next ‘Sean McVay’. They want an offensive coach that can help develop a young quarterback to lead the franchise. Former McVay assistants have been successes in this aspect. Zac Taylor has helped turn Joe Burrow into one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Matt LaFleur had early success with Aaron Rodgers, but Jordan Love ranks 10th in EPA per play and DYAR which is an analytic stat that means a quarterback with more total value. After moving on from Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers offense has looked good at times this season and that’s a credit to LaFleur.
Meanwhile, the lone McVay assistant who has failed while having a perceived top quarterback was Brandon Staley with Justin Herbert. Staley spent one season with McVay as the Rams defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. The former Vic Fangio disciple went 24-24 in three seasons with just one playoff appearance that included a blown 27-0 lead to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fair or not, it will be interesting to see how Staley’s lack of success impacts how teams view Raheem Morris. It’s hard enough for defensive coaches to get head coaching jobs in the current hiring landscape. Staley’s lack of success with the Chargers is another knock against it. He’s the only defensive coach under McVay to get a head coaching job and the only one to get fired. That certainly doesn’t help Morris’ cause.
A case could be made as well that Morris isn’t even the “hottest” defensive head coaching candidate available. Mike MacDonald from the Baltimore Ravens will be a popular name during this cycle as well as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn has success as a head coach as he led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016.
This would be Morris’ second opportunity and the first one didn’t go very well with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Morris was just 32 at the time and has certainly learned a lot over the past 10 years. It can still be difficult to break the narrative of that first failure. Morris discussed that this week when speaking with the media,
“You know, I feel like I have grown. I have gotten better being here with everybody. With being around Sean McVay, being around Les, being around this building, being within this organization and how we do things. I really love it. I love how we’ve handled adversity. I love being able to be around the local media and what you guys do. I think all of those things are part of getting ready in order to prepare yourself to be a head coach. I’d be not telling you the truth if I didn’t think I was going to be better than I was the first time when I was 32 years old taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the interim coach mid-season in Atlanta. I look forward to those challenges and when those things present themselves, I’ll be ready.”
Morris is somebody who seems ready for that second opportunity. However, with the league wanting offensive coaches to lead the charge, that doesn’t bode well for his chances even when you have guys like DeMeco Ryans finding success with a young quarterback with the Houston Texans.
Staley was seen as a good hire by the Chargers back in 2021, but the last two years, and especially the end, were a disaster. Justin Herbert has been seen as an elite talent, but held back by a coaching staff. Robert Saleh has struggled developing a quarterback with the New York Jets. If a team is looking for a coach to develop and grow with a rookie quarterback, it’s a big risk hiring a defensive head coach.
The Rams defensive has exceeded expectations this season given the resources it was given this offseason. Morris has coached the offensive and defensive side of the ball which isn’t something that can be said about a lot of coaches. With that said, the stigma surrounding defensive coaches doesn’t help his case and that’s especially true when one of the recent defensive head coach firings is the same coach that Morris replaced.