Years from now, we’ll still be talking – perhaps in admiring tones, perhaps not – about the Falcons’ coach search of 2024. Fourteen men interviewed for the job, a total the always-genteel New York Post labeled “insane.” The search included Bill Belichick, maybe the greatest coach the NFL has known. Somehow it didn’t end there.
And that, at least to these eyes, is A-OK. Earlier Thursday, yours truly spoke with an esteemed colleague and said, “The odds of Belichick and Arthur Blank co-existing for any length of time are less than zero.” Belichick to Flowery Branch made sense in that he was great at winning Super Bowls, but in the real world it would have been an epic clash of egos.
Blank likes to remind us that he owns the Falcons. The owner for whom Belichick won six Super Bowls described the coach as “the biggest (A-word, and the word wasn’t “ambassador”) in my life.” A Belichick/Blank introductory press conference would have been historic. Every day thereafter would have seen us on the periphery awaiting the first tree-uprooting tantrum.
Saying no to Belichick? Good move. (Or non-move.) Saying yes to a man to whom the Falcons said no in January 2021? There’s no way not to view that as odd, even by Falcons’ standards. There’s no way not to view Morris as a 21st century Marion Campbell, whom the Smith family hired as head coach in both 1974 and – after firing him in 1976 – again in 1987.
I know, I know. Keeping Morris, who became interim HC after Blank finally got around to firing Dan Quinn, would have looked no less odd. Almost nobody – except the Smith family, who did it with Campbell the second time around – gives the HC job to the chief assistant of the guy you’ve just canned. As Stan Kasten said when he was hiring/firing coaches in Atlanta: “If you’re going to make a change, make a change.”
Maybe, back in 2021, the Falcons should have said, “Forget how it looks. We’re going with Morris because we believe he’ll make us winners.” That’s essentially what they’re saying now. And he does, unlike Blank’s first five HC hires, have a history of being an NFL head coach. He worked three seasons for Tampa Bay. The second saw the Buccaneers go 10-6 and miss the playoffs. The third saw them go 4-12 and look for someone new.
The belief here is that Morris is a better choice than Belichick because the focus will be on the Falcons, not on whether a 71-year-old is using a new franchise as his vehicle for surpassing Don Shula’s win total. Am I sure Morris was a better option than some of the zillion other candidates for this job? No, I’m not.
Say this, though, for Blank’s Falcons: They just gave us a January unlike any other in the history of humankind. Belichick! Harbaugh! Two guys from Detroit! Two other guys from Baltimore! Belichick again! Vrabel! Belichick for sure! No, wait! MORRIS!
You might like this move. You might hate this move. But to the question posed by Russell Crowe’s Maximus – “Are you not entertained?” – there’s no way you can say no. This month was better than any Falcons game since it was ... um, 28-3.