Arians: Falcons 'Playing Their Tails Off' For Former Buccaneers' HC Morris

This Sunday, Tampa Bay will face a former Buccaneers head coach, as he serves the same role with an interim label for the Atlanta Falcons.
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Just over a decade ago, Raheem Morris went from being the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs coach, to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator, to Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, in the span of three weeks and a day, at the age of 32 years old. 

The heir to Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay didn't pan out quite like his Super Bowl-winning predecessor. Morris went 3-13, 10-6 (just missing out on the playoffs in 2020), and 4-12 before being relieved of his duties. Like its coach, Tampa's rosters grew inexperienced near the end of Morris' tenure, which caused problems and ultimately led to his undoing.

Now Morris, 44, is in a head coaching position yet again. After a short stint in Washington, Morris ended up with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. He's served as the defensive backs, wide receivers, and secondary coach, assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and now, interim head coach after Dan Quinn was fired following an 0-5 start to the season.

"I think they really have identified with Raheem and Raheem brings a ton of energy," Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said of the Falcons on Monday. 

Since Morris took over as head coach, the Falcons are 4-4 and have looked like a re-energized team at times. While Atlanta has lost its last two games, both by five points or less, Morris has received national praise and could even be making an argument to the team's next general manager - whoever that may be - to remain Atlanta's head coach after the 2020 season.

"Having coached both on their offense for a couple of years and on their defense, [Morris has] got great relationships with all of the guys," Arians continued. "I think that they're playing really, really hard for him and I think he's a hell of a football coach."

It's not been perfect, but its surely better. Atlanta has trimmed off 57.6 yards and 9.7 points per game defensively since firing Quinn and placing the interim label on Morris. The Falcons' offense has slightly regressed, which could be seen particularly over the last two weeks as they've combined for 33 points in the stretch, but is still capable of 40+ point outings like we saw against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 12.

With that, even though the Buccaneers find themselves on the right track with a win right out of the bye in Week 13, they can't afford to sleep on this Falcons team. Atlanta has been eliminated from the 2020-21 playoffs, but in Arians' eyes, they're fighting in every game. 

An NFC South rival, Atlanta would probably love nothing more than to throw a wrench in Tampa Bay's playoff aspirations. After this week, the two teams will meet again in Week 17, in Tampa Bay.

"I think [quarterback Matt] Ryan is still playing at a high level and [it will come down to] whether we can get our hands on [running back] Todd Gurley and keep those receivers in front of us" said Arians. "Same thing defensively – they've started pressuring the quarterback a lot more in recent weeks. I think they're playing their tails off for Raheem."