Raheem Morris got a bonus, but he won’t be getting a promotion.
For the third consecutive year, a Black coordinator that was an essential piece of the puzzle for a Super Bowl championship-winning team won’t be a head coach next season. The Rams clinched Super Bowl LVI when their defense — coached by Morris — stopped the Bengals on fourth-and-1 at the Rams’ 49-yard-line to win the game 23-20. When the Rams needed their defense to step up during the biggest drive of their season, they delivered.
In moments like this, the praise will go to players like Aaron Donald, who was a monster with four tackles and two of the Rams’ seven sacks on the day. Eric Weddle contributed with five tackles, while Von Miller also had two sacks as the Rams’ defensive veterans had to make up for the play of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who got burned on two of the Bengals’ biggest passing plays of the day (although one should have been offensive pass interference).
However, if you’re going to praise the Rams’ defensive unit you can’t ignore its coach. Say what you want about the ridiculous amount of talent that the Rams had on the field on both sides of the ball, as long as you mention that head coach Sean McVay didn’t win it all until Morris was by his side.
“He’s done an amazing job,” McVay said of Morris two days before the game. “I think his communication (skills), his leadership and his adaptability…In a lot of ways he’s a big brother to me. We’ve known each other for a long time. He’s had some amazing experiences that he can impart wisdom on me. He’s able to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.”
And to think, McVay said all this about Morris before they won it all.
“We would not be here if it was not for Raheem Morris,” he explained. “When you hear guys like Jalen [Ramsey], Aaron [Donald], Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller [and] the way they speak about him. And the Eric Weddles, that says everything that you need to know. Those are the guys that truly know that [he’s] a special coach, special player, and outstanding leader.”
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From 2009 to 2011, Morris did have a chance to be an NFL head coach when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was tabbed as the man to follow the Jon Gruden era in Tampa — a guy that still touts his Super Bowl title with the Bucs even though he coached a team that was crafted by Tony Dungy, a Black man. Morris was 17-31 in three seasons and wound up being replaced by Greg Schiano, then Lovie Smith, and then Dirk Koetter — none of whom fared much better. In 2020, Morris was the interim head coach in Atlanta and finished 4-7 after Dan Quinn was fired for starting the season 0-5, meaning that Morris was responsible for every game the Falcons won that season. But instead of hiring Morris, the Falcons went with Arthur Smith, who went 7-10 this past season and watched Morris win the Super Bowl while he was probably at home watching from his couch.
This is the plight of Black coaches in the NFL, and it’s the same experience that Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, and Eric Bieniemy have all gone through over the past three seasons. When Kansas City won Super Bowl LIV, it was Bieniemy who was, and still is, their offensive coordinator. But, despite all the success that Kansas City and its offense has enjoyed, Bieniemy is still in the same place due to his skin color. We saw the same thing happen the following year in Super Bowl LV when the Buccaneers’ dominant defense, led by Bowles, had its way with Bieniemy’s offense. And of course, Leftwich who led Tom Brady and Tampa Bay’s offense in that game.
Three years. Four Black Super Bowl-winning coordinators. Zero head coaching opportunities.
Here’s a quick trivia question for you:
Who was the last Black coordinator that won a Super Bowl that was rewarded with a head coaching job?
If you guessed Brian Flores, you’re correct.
The man that has a 58-page class-action lawsuit against the NFL, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos, alleging discrimination regarding his interview process is the last one to do it. In 2019, Flores was Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Patriots when they held Kansas City’s offense to zero points in the first half of the AFC Championship Game, and the Rams to only three points on their way to winning Super Bowl LIII. After the game, the guy who is the worst texter in the NFL was praising Flores.
“Brian called a great game, as he has all year,” Belichick said. “He’s done a tremendous job for me. In the time he’s been with our organization, he’s worn I don’t know how many different hats — scouting, quality control, special teams, defense, safeties, linebackers, defensive coordinator. He’s done a lot of things. He’s done them all well. He’s been a great team player. … He’s a tremendous person and a tremendous guy.”
Only time will tell if Flores’ lawsuit will change things in the NFL. But, if there wasn’t already enough evidence to support his claims, on Sunday night, Raheem Morris helped strengthen them. Because once again, the Super Bowl showed just how good Black coaches in the NFL are. The owners just don’t view it that way. But, that’s what happens when you “don’t see color.”