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Atlanta Falcons news: Raheem Morris making significant push to return in 2021?

Dec 30, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Raheem Morris during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons news: The Atlanta Falcons made big changes this season, firing head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. While the NFL season isn’t over, strong candidates are already emerging to fill both vacancies.

Under team owner Arthur Blank, the Falcons have shown tremendous loyalty. Dimitroff was hired as general manager in 2008, serving in that role for over a decade. Quinn was brought in before the 2015 season and made it to the 2020 season, despite many expecting him to be fired in 2019.

Given Blank’s reputation for sticking by his guys and the talent on Atlanta’s roster, the Falcons will have two of the most attractive vacancies this offseason.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Falcons, check out #BeRedSeeRed rumors, rankings, and news here.

Atlanta Falcons news: Raheem Morris could return as head coach

After firing Quinn on Oct. 11, the Falcons named defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as their interim head coach. Sitting at an 0-5 record, Atlanta hoped that the move would spark the locker room and give them something to build on for next season.

Since taking over, the Falcons have improved significantly under Morris. They won their first game days after his hiring, beating the Minnesota Vikings 40-23. While they suffered a last-second 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions, the result of Todd Gurley unintentionally scoring, Atlanta went on to win its next two games.

According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Morris is making a strong impression on Blank and the team’s front office. With a 3-1 record, the team’s on-field success is pairing nicely with Morris’ skills as a leader and his ability to prepare each week.

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While the Falcons will interview other candidates this offseason, Morris could have a real advantage. He joined the coaching staff in 2015 as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach. During his time in Atlanta, he has worked with wide receivers (2016-’18) and the entire secondary (2015, 2019).

Related: Top candidates to replace Dan Quinn

He received his first head coaching opportunity in 2009 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers promoted him to the role after serving as defensive backs coach (2007-’08). Morris was only 33 when he was hired and had little NFL coaching experience, outside of being a defensive assistant or position coach.

The Buccaneers went 3-13 in his first season, then turned things around the following year with a 10-6 record. While the team regressed, it lost a significant amount of talent, and ownership wanted to go through a transitional period. After going 4-12 in 2011, Morris was fired.

He has gained extensive experience coaching both sides of the ball since then. Given his relationship with the organization and the team’s recent success, he should be considered a strong candidate to be the head coach in 2021.

Atlanta Falcons news: New candidate emerging for general manager

While the head coaching search draws much of the attention, the Falcons are reportedly focusing on a general manager right now. According to Jason La Canfora, the team will begin conducting interviews next month.

Several of the candidates being considered aren’t currently employed by NFL teams, allowing Atlanta to immediately speak with them. While there are several strong names, former Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith is among the leading candidates.

A longtime NFL executive, Smith took over the Texans in 2006 as general manager and served in that role through the 2017 season. Sadly, he had to step away from the position to care for his wife after her cancer diagnosis. She passed away on Jan. 31, 2019 and Smith has been away from the game since.

Now open to returning, Smith’s draft history is pretty impressive. Under his tenure, the Texans drafted J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Deshaun Watson.

Smith also has ties to the Falcons. He and CEO Rich McKay have served together on the NFL’s competition committee. If the Falcons hire Smith and retain Morris, under the NFL’s new rules to encourage more opportunities for minority candidates, they would be the only NFL team with a Black head coach and general manager.