It looks like the LA Rams must get serious about finding a new defensive coordinator.
There are indications that the Indianapolis Colts are getting close to naming their new head coach and current Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is one of the favorites.
NFL Insider Ian Rapoport said that Morris impressed the Colts organization, and he was brought back for a second interview last week.
Both the Colts and Cardinals still have head coaching vacancies, but they may be choosing to wait until after Super Bowl LVII to announce their decision.
Usually though, the key people know, news leaks and insiders tweet things like “they were impressed” so that they look smart.
What do the Rams lose if Morris jumps? And who can they hire in his place?
The Raheem Morris File
Morris has the credentials to be a head coach in the NFL. He was Sean McVay before McVay. He was the youngest coach (33) in the NFL when he took over the Bucs in 2009. He had one good season out of three but missed the playoffs that year because the division was loaded. He was fired after going 17-31.
He bounced around after that, going to Washington and then landed in Atlanta where he was promoted to interim head coach in 2020 when the Falcons fired Dan Quinn. He led a bad Falcons team to a 4-7 finish. The Rams scooped Morris up in 2021 and he was the defensive coordinator when the Rams won the Super Bowl.
There was talk last year he would be the Rams head coach if McVay was to step down. That conversation happened again this year, but McVay said he would return. McVay also opened the door for his assistants to find other work, so Morris has been out on the trail.
The Colts went 4-12-1 last year but have some good pieces like running back Jonathan Taylor and the No. 4 pick to build around (they need a QB). The Colts have already said they’re keeping Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator whoever they hire. That’s kind of an interesting move, but Morris would approve.
The DC Carousel
There have been multiple new offensive coordinators hired in the NFL this cycle, and defensive coordinators too. Right now, there are defensive coordinator openings in Arizona (obviously), Houston (which just hired DeMeco Ryans) and San Francisco (which just lost Ryans). The Panthers just hired former Rams assistant Ejiro Evero as new defensive coordinator and that hurts because he would have been a fit back in LA.
The Saints just hired Joe Woods from Cleveland as DC. The Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen from the Saints. Miami hired long-time coaching veteran Vic Fangio to run their D and paid him a lot of money. The Cowboys said they were keeping Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator.
Try to keep up.
If Morris Leaves, Who’s In?
Remember the key thing usually in a coaching search in the NFL is who you know. NFL coaches aren’t as worried about records and performance as you might think. They know it’s a players league and schemes can only do so much.
So when considering who the Rams might hire, it’s smart to look at McVay’s connections, who he has coached with, when and where.
Here are five names to keep in mind (in alphabetical order).
Joe Barry, Packers defensive coordinator
Barry and McVay go way back. When McVay was offensive coordinator in Washington, Barry was the defensive coordinator. Barry was the Rams linebackers coach from 2017-2020 but left to become Packers defensive under Matt LaFleur. Who did the Rams just hire as OC? Mike LaFleur, Matt’s brother. Would Joe leave Packerland? Maybe. It would be a lateral move though, so the Packers could block him from interviewing.
Eric Henderson, Rams defensive line coach
If the Rams want to stay in house, Henderson would be the choice. He’s been with the Rams for the last four years, most recently as DL coach and “run game coordinator” (I hate these stupid assistant coach titles). He spent two years with the Chargers in a similar role. He’s close with Aaron Donald, and you always like to keep your star players happy.
Greg Manusky, Vikings LB coach
I went a little deep with this one. Manusky had a long NFL career playing for Washington, Minnesota and Kansas City. He was defensive coordinator for the Niners for four years, then Chargers and then Colts. He overlapped with McVay in Washington for a time.
Now this is a throwback name. Smith was just fired as head coach by the Texans after a miserable 3-13-1 year. Smith made his name with the St. Louis Rams back in the Greatest Show on Turf years. When Smith was DC, the Rams went 33-15 (yes, it was a long time ago). Smith then took the Bears to the Super Bowl and then coached Illinois. Smith may be a bit older than the Rams want, but it’s clear he’s probably best suited to a DC job than a head coaching spot.