Falcons pick Rams DC Raheem Morris as new coach despite 2 interviews with Bill Belichick

The Atlanta Falcons are hiring Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as their new head coach, the team announced Thursday.

The news comes after the team held two separate interviews with New England Patriots legend Bill Belichick, along with several other high-profile candidates. Still, Morris is a familiar face for the Falcons, following a stint as interim head coach in 2020.

Morris, 47, will draw from a breadth of experience in the league. He held his first head-coaching role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009 until '11, going 17-31 in three seasons. He notched his only winning season in 2010, when the Buccaneers went 10-6. He held various other roles with Washington and Atlanta before taking the defensive coordinator position in Los Angeles in 2021.

The Rams saw immediate success with Morris as defensive coordinator, winning Super Bowl LVI in his first season. They also beat the odds this season, making it back to the playoffs this season amid major roster turnover.

Rams general manager Les Snead offered Morris a shining recommendation during the team's end-of-season news conference Saturday, calling him a "highly intelligent human being." Snead also gave a ringing endorsement of the talent Morris will attract.

"I know this, he'll be able to hire an unbelievable staff," Snead added. "Every coach, who's any good, who's qualified, they're going to want to work for Raheem, and I'm pretty sure there'll be a lot of tampering charges because just about every player in the NFL is going to text him and want to come play for him. I'll let the NFL handle that."

Jalen Ramsey, All-Pro cornerback for the Miami Dolphins, illustrated Snead's point when he reacted to Morris' new job via social media:

It marked the second unexpected hiring of the day Thursday, as the Panthers filled their vacant head-coach opening with Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales just hours prior.

Before landing the Falcons gig, Morris was reportedly in talks with the Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Commanders, Panthers and Seattle Seahawks.

Belichick, 71, was reported only to have been interviewing with the Falcons. His options post-Patriots are vast, but there are only two NFL head-coaching positions left: the Seahawks and the Commanders.

Because of the Rooney Rule, the Rams will receive a third-round compensatory pick for the next two years. Morris is the fourth racial minority to become an NFL head coach during the 2024 hiring cycle.

Canales is Mexican American, while Morris, the Las Vegas Raiders' Antonio Pierce and the New England Patriots' Jerod Mayo are Black.