The Atlanta Falcons are continuing internal discussions about potential general manager replacements, while interim head coach Raheem Morris continues to impress ownership and the front office with his performance replacing Dan Quinn.
Morris, who has deep ties to team president Rich McKay and is also well regarded by McKay confidant Tony Dungy, has the Falcons playing good football since Quinn was let go following another slow start. The Falcons are focused on the GM opening and sources said they will begin to interview some candidates next month. Several strong candidates are currently not employed by NFL teams, and thus could be contacted at any point for the vacancy. Former Texans GM Rick Smith is among the candidates the Falcons would like to speak with, sources said, while Smith is likely to have numerous options with some NFL executives anticipating upwards of eight openings.
Smith and McKay have ties going back to their time on the NFL's Competition Committee, Smith is very highly regarded by the league office in New York and is someone whom Troy Vincent, the league's head of football operations and someone at the forefront of the NFL's push for more diversity, strongly supports. There is a sense in the Atlanta organization that the team is not as far from competing as some have suggested and they are not embracing the idea of a wholesale rebuild to the roster, believing a core on offense puts the team in a position to win in 2021.
Furthermore, Morris, 44, is earning high accolades within the organization for his work as a leader and for what he is doing on game day, and his resume with experience as a head coach previously and on both sides of the ball has positioned him as a very viable candidate for the job, sources said. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who works with McKay on the Competition Committee, has long been a champion of Morris, believing he deserved another chance as a head coach. Morris was one of the youngest head coaches in NFL history when he took over the Buccaneers in 2009, lasting three seasons.
Morris already has deep roots communicating with and coaching players on the Falcons offense and defense, having been with Atlanta since 2015, and he had already taken over defensive play calling for Quinn this season as the defensive coordinator. Since Quinn was let go in mid-October following an 0-5 start, the Falcons are 3-1 with their only loss being a bizarre 23-22 defeat to the Lions when running back Todd Gurley fell into the end zone rather than taking a knee as instructed at the one, which would have effectively won them the game.
Atlanta's performance has improved on offense and defense, and this is the rare instance in the NFL when the interim head coach stands a reasonable chance of retaining the job. Should the Falcons fare well in their remaining NFC South games (they face the Saints once more and have two of their final three games against the Buccaneers) the strength of Morris' candidacy will only increase. He already has plenty of supporters within the organization.