May 22, 2022

Rams’ Raheem Morris earns praise as leader; will opportunity follow?

View Original Notice ? Rams’ Raheem Morris earns praise as leader; will opportunity follow?

THOUSAND OAKS — Under Raheem Morris’ coaching, Jalen Ramsey has continued to expand his role in the Rams’ defense this season, playing not only cornerback as listed on the roster but slot corner, safety, inside linebacker and outside linebacker at times.

Now, add a role to Ramsey’s list: Morris campaign surrogate.

Morris, the Rams’ defensive coordinator, is scheduled to interview with the Minnesota Vikings for that team’s head coach opening even as he prepares for Sunday’s divisional round playoff road game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ramsey has been speaking up on Morris’ behalf on social media and in his weekly press conference on Thursday with reporters covering the Rams, all while making it clear he won’t mind at all if “Coach Rah” stays in L.A.

“He’s genuinely one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around, in my professional career for sure, but just in general for me forever playing football,” Ramsey said. “The way he challenges guys and brings the best out of them is something that’s honestly special. And that’s something that any of these (teams with) vacancies out here, if they could get a guy like him, they’re in good hands and in good position.

“He’s earned it, and I think he deserves an opportunity at least to be a head coach. But if not, then we’re just going to beat on people next year. We’re going to take what we did this year and build on it.”

Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is scheduled to interview for head coaching jobs with the Vikings, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, and running backs coach and assistant head coach Thomas Brown has drawn the interest of the Miami Dolphins.

Other teams’ pursuit of Rams coach Sean McVay’s assistants is an annual rite, and McVay’s entire coaching tree would have made the playoffs this season if not for the Chargers’ overtime loss in their regular-season finale.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley was the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2020, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur was a Rams offensive coordinator, and Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor was a Rams quarterbacks coach.

“It’s one of the coolest, most rewarding things, but it’s also very challenging, because you’re losing great people,” McVay said in December about seeing assistants move on. “I look at it as it’s positive problems.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose some great ones this year.”

McVay said he has no doubt his current assistants can “compartmentalize” and pursue other opportunities without being distracted from their Rams work.

It’s the first time for O’Connell, the former San Diego State quarterback and NFL backup who came to the Rams from the Washington Football Team in 2020, and Brown, in his second season with the Rams but first with the assistant head coach title.

But Morris was a head coach twice before, going 17-31 in three seasons with the Buccaneers after being hired in 2009 at age 32, and going 4-7 as interim coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.

He speaks fondly of the experience he gained in Tampa Bay, despite the outcome.

“We had one year we were able to win 10 games and it wasn’t enough, didn’t get us in the playoffs. We were able to start the next year and go 4-2,” Morris said Thursday. “And then we had a disastrous collapse that led to my firing, and I got what I deserved.”

Morris and Brown are Black. After this month’s firings of David Culley by Houston and Brian Flores by Miami, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is the only Black head coach in a league in which most players are Black.

Morris said last week he’s optimistic that more Black coaches will get opportunities this year.

“I think when you give up in hope, I think that’ll be the issue,” Morris said. “And I would never give up on the hope part of it, because I believe there are great people out there. There are people that are going to do the right things.”

With the Rams, the personable Morris, 45, quickly earned players’ devotion after becoming the team’s third defensive coordinator in three years, following Wade Phillips and Staley.

“I’ve had great coaches, honestly, since the time I was traded here to L.A.,” Ramsey said. “(Staley) did a great job, and he helped me a lot. He opened up my game to where I was able to showcase my skill set even more just by different positions and coverages I was able to play. He got his opportunity to go be a head coach, and I personally think he did a good job (with the Chargers).

“Then, when Rah got here this year, he kind of just took that and went to another level with it. (He) not only personally allowed me to play multiple positions and be effective all around the game, but the way he’s taught me the game, the way he breaks down film.

“Not only that, but just the leader he is, how he coaches all of his guys. He doesn’t treat us all the same, but he treats us all fairly, if that makes sense. He knows how to treat different people how they need to be treated.

“I could probably go on and on about Coach Rah.”

NOTES

Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) sat out practice again Thursday. Linebacker Troy Reeder (ankle), receiver Ben Skowronek (back) and punt and kick returner Brandon Powell (ribs) were listed as limited again on the injury report. … Four Buccaneers offensive starters were listed as non-participants in practice: running back Ronald Jones (ankle), receiver Cyril Grayson (hamstring), right tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle) and center Ryan Jensen (ankle). … Rams safety Nick Scott was named the winner of the NFL’s weekly Way to Play Award for the wild-card playoff round. The NFL said Scott “demonstrated proper tackling technique by keeping his head out and shoulder in” when he hit Arizona Cardinals receiver A.J. Green to prevent a catch in the second quarter Monday night. This year’s award recipients, chosen by a panel of former players, include Reeder in Week 9.

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