The Atlanta Falcons have decided to move assistant head coach Raheem Morris, who was the team’s defensive pass coordinator this past season, to offense, a source confirmed to ESPN.com on Sunday.
Morris' offensive title is not official yet, but he is expected to work with the wide receivers as well as assisting offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with the passing game, the source said. The Falcons lost longtime wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, who left to become the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator.
The move of Morris to offense is expected to coincide with the addition of former Dallas Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson as the new defensive pass game coordinator. Multiple sources indicated Henderson said "yes" to joining the Falcons after interviewing on Friday. Henderson would work under defensive coordinator Richard Smith.
Some changes were anticipated after the Falcons finished the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. However, no one could have imagined head coach Dan Quinn deciding to put Morris and his defensive background on the offensive side of the ball.
Morris, a safety in college at Hofstra and a close friend of Quinn’s, came to the Falcons after serving as the defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins from 2012 to 2014. Prior to that, Morris was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011, his only true exposure to making coaching decisions on offense.
At least Morris is expected to inherit one of the league's best receivers in Pro Bowler Julio Jones, who set franchise records with 1,871 receiving yards on 136 receptions this past season. And Morris should have a savvy veteran in Roddy White, provided the Falcons let White play out the final two years of his contract. But the Falcons also have a young receiver in Justin Hardy and seem likely to draft a receiver to alleviate some of the pressure off Jones, meaning they’ll need a coach capable of developing them.
It’s unclear if Mike McDaniel, who was the assistant wide receivers coach last season, will continue in the same role once the Morris switch becomes official.
If the offense takes a step back in 2016, the move of Morris to offense is sure to be scrutinized heavily. Shanahan already took heavy criticism for some of the issues that plagued Matt Ryan and the offense this past season. However, Quinn expressed firm belief that the offensive woes had more to do with costly turnovers, particularly in the red zone, rather than a broken scheme.
The Falcons finished the regular season ranked seventh in the league in yards per game (374.1) but tied for 21st in points per game (21.2). Defensively, they ranked 16th in yards allowed per game (347.6). The Falcons have 30 giveaways and 23 takeaways.
The Falcons also are in the process of shuffling their front office, although general manager Thomas Dimitroff will remain for at least one more year to work alongside Quinn. The organization parted ways with director of player personnel Lionel Vital and could cut ties with a few scouts. Assistant general manager Scott Pioli remains in place, and there’s a possibility former Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery, who made a few appearances with the team last year, could be added to fill a role.