ATLANTA (AP) — The poor performance of Atlanta's defense under the leadership of Raheem Morris won't matter if Morris finds a way to win as the Falcons' interim coach.
The more Morris wins, the better he'll look to Falcons owner Arthur Blank as perhaps more than just a temporary replacement for the fired Dan Quinn. With 11 games remaining, Blank figures it's a perfect audition opportunity for Morris.
Can Morris, elevated Monday to interim coach, be a candidate for the full-time job?
"Absolutely," Blank said, adding with a smile, "if Raheem ends up 11-0, he'll certainly be a candidate."
Morris is in his sixth season with the Falcons and was in his first as defensive coordinator. His previous experience as a head coach helped him earn the support of Blank and team president Rich McKay as the choice to lead the team the remainder of the season.
The Falcons fired Dan Quinn on Sunday night, hours after the team fell to 0-5 for the first time since 1997 with a 23-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Blank also fired longtime general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
"This is not just a response to 0-5," Blank said Monday, referring to the Falcons' 14-23 record under Quinn since the beginning of the 2018 season.
Blank said Quinn and Dimitroff agreed there was a mandate to make the playoffs "or bust" this season following consecutive 7-9 finishes the last two years.
"It's pretty clear when you go 0-5 that is not going to happen," Blank said.
"We felt we had given both gentlemen a long period of time to create the winning environment and they both hadn't done it. It was the right decision at this point, we think."
The Falcons named linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator. Blank and McKay said Morris had the option to retain control of the defense.
Also, Bernie Parmalee, who had been running backs coach, was named special teams coordinator. Will Harriger, who had been game management coordinator, was named running backs coach. Ben Kotwica, who had been special teams coordinator, was fired.
When firing Quinn and Dimitroff, the Falcons announced McKay would take control of football operations on an interim basis and also assist Blank in the search for a full-time coach and general manager.
McKay and Blank said it may not be necessary to hire the GM before the coach. They said decisions about the future direction of the team, including veterans, would be made by the new hires.