NFL coaching carousel: Raheem Morris named Atlanta Falcons head coach, Carolina Panthers hire Dave Canales

Coaching vacancies continue to be filled around the NFL, as the Atlanta Falcons announced on Wednesday that Raheem Morris had been hired as head coach of the organization, while the Carolina Panthers named Dave Canales as their new head coach.

Morris joins Atlanta from the Los Angeles Rams, having served under Sean McVay as defensive coordinator for three seasons, winning Super Bowl LVI with the team. He brings a wealth of experience to the Falcons having coached on both sides of the ball in the NFL in 21 different years.

Morris spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in assistant roles from 2002 to 2005 and returned to the franchise in 2007. He was promoted to his first and only prior full-time head coaching role in 2009, spending three seasons at the helm before being fired and moving to Washington as defensive backs coach.

He is also familiar with the Falcons franchise, having worked with the team as an assistant head coach, pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach between 2016 and 2019. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2020 and had an 11-game span as interim head coach that season after Dan Quinn was fired, before heading to LA.

Morris is returning an organization he knows well. - Kyusung Gong/AP
Morris is returning an organization he knows well. - Kyusung Gong/AP

In replacing Arthur Smith in Atlanta, Morris becomes the first full-time Black head coach in franchise history, per the Falcons.

“I am overjoyed for the opportunity for my family and I to return to Atlanta as the Falcons head coach,” Morris said in a statement, where he also thanked McVay and the Rams. “We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans. I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team.”

The move to hire Morris comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Falcons had been tipped by many to hire legendary coach Bill Belichick. The six-time Super Bowl champion departed the New England Patriots after 24 seasons earlier this month and the Falcons completed two interviews with the 72-year-old, but opted to pivot in a different direction with Morris. With potential landing spots disappearing, it is possible that we might not see Belichick on the sideline during the 2024 NFL season.

NFL fans may have to get used to the idea of life without Belichick. - Greg M. Cooper/AP
NFL fans may have to get used to the idea of life without Belichick. - Greg M. Cooper/AP

Carolina Panthers hire Dave Canales

Canales, who spent the 2023 season as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator, has been hired as head coach of the Panthers, the team announced on Thursday.

“Dave’s background is rooted in success,” Panthers owner David Tepper said. “He has an innovative mindset and positive energy that connects well with players and staff. We are impressed with his ability to bring out the best in players.”

Per the Panthers, Canales becomes only active Hispanic coach in the league and only the fifth in NFL history.

Prior to joining the Bucs, Canales spent 13 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks in a variety of different roles. He served as offensive quality coach, assistant quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator between 2010 and 2022.

He arrived in Tampa Bay with the team in a transitional period – era-defining quarterback Tom Brady had just retired and the organization took a chance on Baker Mayfield to lead the offense. The Bucs finished with a 9-8 record and won the NFC South division, upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the playoffs before falling to the Detroit Lions.

Mayfield appeared rejuvenated under Canales this season. - Mike Carlson/AP
Mayfield appeared rejuvenated under Canales this season. - Mike Carlson/AP

The Panthers have put their faith in the first-time head coach to turn the franchise around. Carolina finished with a league-worst 2-15 record in a miserable season that saw 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young struggle heavily in his rookie campaign.

Canales will now navigate a difficult offseason where the Panthers are without their first round pick – which ended up being the first overall selection – after trading it to the Chicago Bears in the deal to land Young.

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