For the second consecutive season, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris missed out on a head coaching opportunity. Despite being in contention for the Indianapolis Colts position and being a top candidate, Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard opted to hire Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
It’s hard to blame the Colts for hiring Steichen. He helped develop Jalen Hurts and for a franchise looking to draft a young quarterback, it simply made sense. Still, with defensive coordinators such as Jonathan Gannon also getting hired in Arizona, it’s hard not to feel for Morris and wonder when he’ll get an opportunity.
Steichen had only been a coordinator for two years and same with Gannon. Gannon’s defense with the Eagles had just one year of success, ranking 25th in DVOA in 2021 before ranking sixth last year. Morris had more coordinator experience as well as experience as a head coach.
Still, the Rams can’t be too disappointed that they’ll return Morris for a third season. Surely Sean McVay, the defensive staff, and players such as Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey have some empathy that Morris was once again passed over for a head coaching role. However, at the end of the day, the Rams returned a good football coach to the staff.
Over the last two years, there may not have been a more important coach on the Rams’ staff than Raheem Morris. Through the bad times it has been Morris that has held the team together. He’s been the glue and a leader that team has desperately needed when dark times have arisen.
On Thursday, The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue detailed in an article that when things went sideways in the middle of last season and McVay distanced himself, players naturally gravitated towards Raheem Morris
“If the Rams were a supernova, so was McVay. He became emotionally distant from players and staff, consumed by his frustration. Sky-high expectations had been replaced by problems that the meticulous coach couldn’t control, and it was infuriating to him. He faded away, polite but mechanical in press conferences, drained and angry behind closed doors. Players gravitated toward defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ office as their head coach drew inward.”
There’s been no shortage of reporting on how McVay distances himself and closed himself off while dealing with traces of burnout while the Rams went 5-12. During this time, it was Morris that stepped up as a leader in the building for the players. This wasn’t the first time this has happened either.
In 2021, it was Morris that kept the Rams together and got McVay back on track after a three-game losing streak in November. In an article by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, he detailed an interaction that Morris and McVay had that got the Rams head coach back on track.
One day in November, Morris asked McVay, “You all right?” Both men knew the answer. Morris reminded McVay that he gets lost inside his own head, alienating himself. “Think anybody else knows?” McVay asked. “Absolutely,” Morris said. “Sometimes people need you,” Morris told McVay. “Sometimes when your voice is around, you give people comfort. Make them feel better. You make them want to go play.”
For all of the criticism that Morris takes, his ability to lead and step up when his number is called tends to go unnoticed.
Following Morris’ talk with McVay, the Rams went on to lose just one of their final 10 games and win the Super Bowl. During that stretch, the defense ranked third in overall EPA per play, eighth in dropback in EPA, and second in rush EPA. Over the final 16:59 of the NFC Championship Game and 25:15 of the Super Bowl, Morris and the Rams defense gave up 0 points to the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.
Morris often doesn’t get enough credit for those performances and he will deflect to the talent that he was working with on the defensive side of the ball. However, it was Morris’ halftime speech and adjustments that propelled the defense to six second half sacks.
For the second time in the McVay era, the Rams will have a defensive coordinator going into their third season. The last one was Wade Phillips who coached the defensive side of the ball from 2017 to 2019.
Hopefully Morris gets his second chance to be a head coach over the next few coaching cycles. In the meantime, the Rams will gladly keep him as their defensive coordinator. Since arriving in Los Angeles, he’s shown that he’s the glue that has kept everything together and been a visible leader when the team needed it.