Brian Flores’ racial discrimination suit against the NFL has put almost every African-American coach under a CT scan, giving them permission to discuss their experiences interviewing for head coaching jobs. So far, few of them have taken the opportunity to directly criticize the team owners they may need final approval from someday to land one of those 32 coveted positions.
That includes Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Recently, Morris opened up about his experiences in the interview process. According to Morris, he’s been on approximately five interviews for head coaching positions over the years. The most recent one we know of was his candidacy for the Minnesota Vikings head coach vacancy, which he lost out on to Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. While he predictably remained neutral in his take on Flores and the NFL, he also appeared unaware of how he’s been short changed over the years, telling the Los Angeles Times, “I didn’t feel that way in any of them.”
Nobody can tell Morris what he should feel about his own experiences, but his ongoing attempts to stick the landing somewhere are precisely the point.
The Rooney Rule was put in place to allow minority candidates ample opportunities to shine and eventually spin that interview experience into jobs, but that system has been mutilated. Morris has been a prominent figure for over a decade. Back in 2009, he shot up the ranks to become the youngest head coach in the Super Bowl era at age 32 behind only Lane Kiffin. He was a few months younger than Josh McDaniels, who was hired to lead the Denver Broncos.
All three wunderkinds burned out.McDaniels and Kiffin charred their careers in fewer than two seasons, while Morris’s slow burn lasted three.
Kiffin immediately rebounded as the Tennessee Vols head coach, finished 7-6 in his only season there, and left an angry mob behind when he bolted to USC. Since flaming out a third time, Kiffin has been given opportunities to rehabilitate his credentials as the offensive coordinator for Alabama, head coach at FIU, and in the same position at Ole Miss.
McDaniels returned to the Patriots machine and emerged without a dent in his career prospects. He even accepted the Indianapolis Colts job in 2018, before reneging the day before his introductory press conference and has entertained openings since. McDaniels will begin the 2022 season as the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach, after three seasons of vanilla offensive play-calling in New England.
The 2011 Bucs were the NFL’s youngest team during Morris’ final 4-12 season. After reaching the firmament of pro football’s coaching profession, those opportunities weren’t waiting for Morris on the other side. He returned to Washington as defensive backs coach, where he served on the same coaching staff as Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, and Matt LaFleur. His tenure in Washington ended in 2014, which led Morris to reinvent himself as an offensive coach with the Falcons.
Morris has had to scale a mountain to reach the coaching on-deck circle again, while Kiffin and McDaniels rode the ski lift back to the summit. He’s still ascending. NFL front offices are plucking the assistants off McVay’s coaching staff quicker than the eye can see. However, the neophyte-turned-seasoned defensive master operating McVay’s Super Bowl defensive unit will likely go another year without getting another crack at leading an NFL franchise.