THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Raheem Morris was at home last Sunday, still smarting from his Los Angeles Rams’ season-opening blowout loss, when he heard Nebraska had fired coach Scott Frost.
The Rams’ defensive coordinator immediately called Frost, who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003 when Morris was an assistant coach. They reunited at Kansas State in 2006, when Morris had become a wunderkind defensive coordinator and Frost was a graduate assistant.
“Congratulations,” Morris said to his puzzled friend. “Welcome to coaching. You finally got fired. It is what it is, and now you’re ready to do what we do best, and that’s overcome and move forward, just like us after this Buffalo game.”
The 46-year-old Morris has been in coaching long enough to experience the heights of two Super Bowl victories and the lows of getting fired from both of his head coaching jobs, and he prides himself on handling both extremes with aplomb.
When the Rams host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Morris will be facing the team that dismissed him after he spent the final 11 games of the 2020 season as their interim coach.
“Our business is production-driven, and that will never change,” Morris said. “That’s just the nature of the beast. I don’t have any ill will towards them for not picking me. You don’t have to feel sorry for me for getting fired from the Atlanta Falcons. That happens to all of us in this business.”
Morris is hoping for a third opportunity to lead a team, but he’s also enjoying the day-to-day challenge of leading, instructing and fixing the defense that got torn up by the Bills in LA’s season opener. And no matter what happens, Morris always embraces the enormous challenges and equally huge rewards of his chosen profession.
“In this business, man, whether you play the game or you coach the game, gunfighters get shot,” Morris said. “If you get in enough gunfights, you’re bound to get shot.”
Morris and the Rams have a few defensive issues to fix from their 31-10 loss to Buffalo in which Josh Allen largely did what he wanted against the defense that won the Super Bowl last season.
But his reunion will also be fun: Morris spent six seasons with the Falcons from 2015-20, including his stint as the interim coach after Dan Quinn’s firing. Morris went 4-7 and interviewed for the full-time job, but the Falcons hired Arthur Smith.
“I don’t get frazzled with those types of emotions,” Morris said. “That was a great opportunity that (owner) Arthur Blank gave me, and I’ve got nothing but love and respect and admiration for him and his family and everything they do. I wish them luck every week but this week.”
Morris scarcely recognizes the Falcons’ roster just 18 games after he was their coach. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are gone, while Marcus Mariota, Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie Drake London are among the new playmakers on offense.
But Morris still has strong connections to many Falcons, including receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (“I taught him how to swim, a fun fact, in my backyard,” Morris said) and cornerback A.J. Terrell (“He’s scary,” Morris said).
The ties between the franchises run deep, and not just because Sean McVay is from the Atlanta suburbs. Blank’s son interned with the Rams during the summer, and John McKay — the Rams’ director of pro scouting — is the son of Falcons CEO Rich McKay.
“We didn’t let him in the building this week, but he definitely works here,” Morris said with a laugh.
NOTES: LT Joseph Noteboom returned to practice on a limited basis after missing Wednesday’s workouts to rest strained ligaments in his knee from the season opener. … LB Leonard Floyd missed all of practice with his knee injury after participating on a limited basis Wednesday. … C Brian Allen (knee) and WR Van Jefferson (knee surgery) both aren’t expected to play Sunday. … Long snapper Matt Orzech missed practice for the second straight day with a calf strain. Matt Overton is on the Rams’ practice squad and will be promoted if Orzech can’t go.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL