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Raheem Morris, Dave Canales spread Bucs vibe in the NFC South

INDIANAPOLIS — Dave Canales was hired in Carolina to fix quarterback Bryce Young. Raheem Morris was hired in Atlanta because the Falcons didn’t have the right guy under center.

“If we had better quarterback play last year in Atlanta, I might not be standing here,” Morris said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.

It’s been 13 years since Morris became a first-time head coach with the Bucs. It’s been just less than 13 months since the Bucs made Canales a first-time offensive coordinator.

But no matter the duration or the direction, the NFC South will have a very distinct Bucs vibe next season.

Morris’ journey was more maddening than the meteoric ascent Canales is enjoying.

After going 10-6 in his second year with the Bucs, Morris’ 2011 team began 4-2 before a series of injuries depleted its depth and a 10-game losing streak to end the season derailed his head coaching career.

For more than a decade, he interviewed for countless head coaching positions in the NFL. He coached on both sides of the football.

He won a Super Bowl as defensive coordinator with the Rams and was the Falcons’ interim head coach after the firing of Dan Quinn. Despite the long wait, Morris isn’t bitter because he says the various experiences he’s had in coaching made him better.

“When you get into the problem of thinking you deserve something before you actually deserve it, that’s when problems happen,” Morris said. “... I wouldn’t allow the process to make me bitter. I allowed different coaches from different walks of life. And that’s the way you’ve got to deal with everything.”

Whereas Canales spent 13 years working in Seattle under Pete Carroll before getting his first chance to call plays last season in Tampa Bay, Morris’ journey included a stop with Washington and two stints with the Falcons, including a reassignment from defense to coaching receivers and serving as the passing game coordinator under Kyle Shanahan.

Having coached both offense and defense has better prepared him this time to be an effective head coach. Other coaches he’s worked with have poured into him. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan said recently if he was an owner, Morris would be the first guy he’d hire as head coach.

“I just think about not only Kyle Shanahan but what he’s done as a head coach and us working together from Tampa days to the Washington days to him trying continuously for us to work together at some point because of what he’s done in his league from an offensive play caller standpoint,” Morris said. “I think about how important that is and how well he’s done as a head coach getting his team to two Super Bowls.

“And that is so flattering from a guy like that. But it’s not just Kyle ... It’s the Mike McDaniels and ultimately the Mike Tomlins and the people that you’ve worked with who have been around that can give you those great compliments like that.”

While Morris’ Falcons plan to move on from Desmond Ridder as their starting quarterback, Canales is fully committed to improving Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft a year ago.

Young struggled as a rookie, going 2-14 and passing for 2,877 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. While Young needs a better supporting cast besides receiver D.J. Moore, Canales said his job is to make the Panthers offense go with the players they have.

“No plan to fix Bryce Young,” Canales said. “It’s about building an offense, something that we can be proud of. Something that is tough, something that is smart, that takes care of the football, No. 1. We’ve got to create more explosives and then of course we have to eliminate damage with exotic pressures and things like that. I think just elevate the full group and really asking Bryce to just do his part.

“I have a specific plan. ... But again, we’re not talking about a guy that’s a big fix. We’re looking at an accurate player, a real smart player. He’s aware of what’s happening and we’ve got to build the whole thing around him, put an offense around him.”

Canales made it clear he plans to follow the template he used in Tampa Bay with Baker Mayfield and the Bucs offense. In fact, he brought three Bucs assistant coaches to help him: receivers coach Brad Idzik, who will serve as his offensive coordinator; offensive line coach Joe Gilbert and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin.

“Last year in Tampa, we didn’t make a lot of moves in the offseason,” Canales said. “We were strapped for cash for different reasons. You know, in the draft, we really went defense outside of (offensive lineman) Cody Mauch. We said, ‘Okay, well, boys, this is what we’ve got. Let’s start figuring out a starting point’ and having (receiver) Mike (Evans) really gives you a starting point. ...

“I was really proud of the way Goody, Joe, Brad — the whole group — really rallied around our players and said, ‘This is what we have. How can we maximize this and put us in a position to have success late in the season to give us a chance to win the division?’ ”

Ultimately, Morris lost his first head coaching job because the team refused to spend money on free agents, and he got inconsistent play from quarterback Josh Freeman.

That will have to change this time in Atlanta. The Falcons have some options, including trading for a quarterback such as the Bears’ Justin Fields, signing a likely veteran free agent such as Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson or possibly Mayfield, or using the No. 8 overall pick on the position.

“I won’t bring up names ... you have everything open, right?” Morris said. “We’ve got so many avenues right now because we have free-agency money.”

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