BRONCOS

Broncos need to look at a coach with offensive and defensive experience

Jan 11, 2022, 6:41 AM | Updated: 6:42 am
Raheem Morris and Matt Ryan...
(Photo by: 2016 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
(Photo by: 2016 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos are searching for a new head coach after firing Vic Fangio over the weekend. Broncos fans rejoiced with the decision that general manager George Paton made because things have fallen apart for this proud franchise.

Paton will now be tasked with finding a head coach he will be tied to for the remainder of his time with the Broncos.
Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis will give Paton all the support he needs to find the right coach.

“I’ll support George — along with the rest of the organization — where he needs the support from us. We’ll have all the resources to get the best possible coach we could get. I look forward to watching George in action here as he brings us our next great head coach,” Ellis said.

Fans and many in the media are leaning towards an offensive-minded head coach. The last two coaches, Fangio and Vance Joseph, were both defensive coordinators with varying levels of experience but zero head coaching experience. Fangio and Joseph were bad choices, so fans naturally want to look at the offensive side.

How about a coach with experience both on offense and defense? One candidate the Broncos could look at is Raheem Morris.

Currently, the Broncos have requested permission to interview nine candidates. They can interview as many as 12 candidates, so going further down the list to guys like Morris could be a possibility.

The Broncos have interviewed Morris before for their head coaching vacancy, but that was back in 2009 when they chose Josh McDaniels over him. Could Morris be the right option for the Broncos this time around? Let’s take a look.

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Head Coaching Experience

Morris has a key component that both Fangio and Joseph lacked – head coaching experience. In fact, Morris has been a head coach for two different teams – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons.

With the Buccaneers, Morris was their head coach from 2009-11. In his first season, things were rough for Morris, as they posted a 3-13 record. His second season the Buccaneers turned things around and barely missed the playoffs at 10-6. Morris became the first coach since the AFL/NFL merger to start at least 10 rookies and finish with a winning record.

Even though things were looking up, they fell apart in 2011. Morris could only muster a 4-12 record – including a 10-game losing streak to end that season.

With the Falcons, Morris served as the interim head coach in 2020 after Dan Quinn was fired after an 0-5 start. They went 4-7 with Morris as the top man, and the Falcons finished 2020 with a 4-12 record and last place in the NFC South. He was the interim head coach in 2020, but it’s worth noting that Morris was also an assistant head coach for the Falcons from 2015-19.

Paton admits that having previous head coaching experience won’t put a candidate over the top.

“We’re wide open. We’re going to have an open book and keep all of our options open. There have been a lot of great head coaches that have never had experience, and there have been really good head coaches that did have experience. I think we’re going to keep an open mind and it’s going to be a wide range. We’re going to be very thorough, and we’re going to look at all the candidates,” Paton said.

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Worked With Defense

Most people will remember Morris for the work that he’s done on the defensive side of the ball. He’s been coaching since the late 90s, beginning his career as a defensive backs coach with Cornell back in 1999.

His first opportunity in the NFL didn’t take long as he was hired by the Buccaneers as a defensive quality control coach in 2002. By 2004, Morris had worked his way up to an assistant defensive backs coach. Morris decided to take a job in college as he was hired by Kansas State to be their defensive coordinator in 2006, but it wasn’t long before he was back in the NFL.

In 2007, the Buccaneers hired Morris to be their defensive backs coach from 2007-08. As aforementioned, he was then hired to be the head coach of the Buccaneers in 2009.

When things fell apart for him as a head coach of the Buccaneers, Morris went to Washington to be the defensive backs coach from 2012-14. After that, he went to the Falcons as an offensive coach (more on that in a bit) but once again was a defensive coordinator in 2020 before taking over as the head coach early in that season.

During all his stops, Morris was known as a motivator and a leader of men. He certainly knows how to connect with the modern player, and Morris has always been very popular to the players that work underneath him.
Leadership is the key component that Paton is looking for in a new head coach.

“The No. 1 quality is leadership. We’re looking for someone to lead this entire organization, to lead this community, and to lead our players. That’s the No. 1 trait we’re looking for. Obviously, we want the best football coach. I’m not worried about what side of the ball, and I’m not worried about a play caller. We want leadership. That’s our No. 1 priority,” Paton said.

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Have a Plan on Offense

Unlike most head-coaching candidates who only stay on one side of the ball, Morris has coached on both sides – not only defense, but offense, as well. After he left Washington, Morris signed on with the Falcons to be an assistant head coach, but his other job title from 2015-19 was passing game coordinator. He was also the team’s wide receivers coach from 2016-19, further expanding his resume.

So, how was the passing game when Morris was in charge? Well, during that time Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the league MVP and the team made the Super Bowl – so you can see how they were quite successful going through the air.

During his time as wide receivers coach, Morris was able to get incredible production from future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones. In addition to the eye-popping numbers from Jones during that time, Morris was able to get a lot from veteran Mohammed Sanu and groomed a young Calvin Ridley into a Pro Bowl caliber player.

If Morris were to be hired as head coach of the Broncos, he would certainly have an idea of what he wants his offense to look like. Unlike other coaches, Morris would have the experience as a head coach and an offensive assistant.
Having a plan for the offense is something Paton wants the new head coach to have.

“We need to upgrade the offense. We know that. Whoever we talk to, they’re going to have to have a plan for our offense. If they’re a defensive-minded coach, they’re going to have talk about their plan — they’re offensive coordinator and his coaching staff and what his vision is with our personnel. All that goes into it. Offense is obviously a priority, but we don’t want to take a step back on defense. We also need to elevate special teams. We need someone to take over the whole operation and not just be focused on one side of the ball, even though we really need to upgrade on that side of the ball,” Paton said.

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Slim Chances

At this time, Morris is not on the radar for the Broncos. It’s fun to speculate whether or not the team will look into hiring him, but it seems like they’re focusing on going in a different direction. Interviews will be done, and perhaps Morris then gets in the building for an interview himself.

If not, someone could be getting a valuable asset in Morris no matter where he’s placed on the coaching staff.

Broncos

(Graphic by Johnny Hart/Bonneville Denver)...
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Broncos need to look at a coach with offensive and defensive experience