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Falcons pass up Belichick opportunity, bring Morris back as head coach

The Atlanta Falcons have announced the return of Raheem Morris as the team’s head coach, passing up the opportunity to hire Bill Belichick after holding two interviews with the NFL great.

Morris held a variety of roles in Atlanta between 2015 and 2021, becoming defensive coordinator for the 2020 season then being promoted to interim head coach when Dan Quinn was fired after a 0-5 start to the campaign.

Atlanta went 4-7 under Morris that season but he was not given the job on a full-time basis, with Arthur Smith being hired instead.

Smith was fired earlier this month after the Falcons finished with a 7-10 record for the third straight season, stretching their playoff drought to five years.

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In a statement released on Thursday, Morris said: “I am overjoyed for the opportunity for my family and I to return to Atlanta as the Falcons head coach. We know from first-hand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans.

“I am incredibly appreciative of [owner] Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team.”

Morris – who has spent the last three seasons as the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator, contributing to their victory at Super Bowl LVI – saw off competition from one of the most decorated coaches in league history for the role.

Atlanta held second interviews with four candidates, with Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero joining Belichick in missing out.

Belichick parted company with the New England Patriots earlier this month after 24 years with the franchise, having overseen a career-worst 4-13 season in 2023.

The-71-year-old, who needs just 14 wins to match Don Shula’s all-time NFL record of 347 regular-season and playoff triumphs, was also touted as a candidate for the Los Angeles Chargers vacancy, but they finalised the appointment of Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday.

The Falcons are the only team known to have interviewed Belichick, whose chances of finding a new role for 2024 appear remote with only the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders still on the lookout for a head coach.

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