Falcons' Blank: Belichick never asked for control

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The Atlanta Falcons hired Raheem Morris to be their head coach last month, but owner Arthur Blank wanted to make a few things clear Friday about the team’s search and one candidate in particular: Bill Belichick.

Blank, speaking for the first time since hiring Morris, said Belichick was never offered the Falcons job and that Belichick never asked for full control of player personnel or the goings-on in the team’s Flowery Branch, Georgia, headquarters.

Belichick, the six-time Super Bowl-winning former coach of the New England Patriots, interviewed twice in person with the Falcons for the position — one of 14 candidates Atlanta spoke with before selecting Morris.

“I do want to make it 1,000 percent clear, want to go to 2,000 percent or 100,000, whatever percent you want to use,” Blank said. “Bill Belichick never asked for, in our discussion, full control of the personnel or the building or anything of that nature.

“He was very inclusive, very collaborative. He met Terry Fontenot, checked out our people doing his own references, sent me a private text, which I eventually shared with Terry that he’d be happy working with him.”

Blank said Belichick never had that level of control as a requirement and that the Falcons “had a very good series of interviews with him.” At the end of all of them, though, the Falcons chose to go with Morris — who had worked with the Falcons previously and had been the team’s interim head coach in 2020 after the club fired Dan Quinn following an 0-5 start.

Morris, in his introductory news conference Monday, described Atlanta as home and a place he and his family felt comfortable. Blank felt comfortable with Morris, too, and said he learned a lot from his three years working under head coach Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams — including seeing how McVay and general manager Les Snead interacted, something Morris brought up in his news conference as the type of relationship he hoped to build with Fontenot.

“The three years he had in L.A. where he worked with a different coaching environment, a different kind of setup which Sean McVay operates different than a lot of other coaches do,” Blank said. “And their coaching scheme and setup and how they promote from within and just move coaches around in a much more lateral way was a learning experience for him.”

Blank pointed to Morris’ energy, leadership, recommendations from McVay and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and the team’s own understanding of Morris from six years in Atlanta all helped the Falcons decide he was their choice.

Blank said he was also pleased with the staff Morris has brought in and that he has the knowledge of how to potentially grow and develop a staff from his time with the Rams — including for having plans if a coach was promoted or hired elsewhere due to Atlanta’s hoped success. Morris has brought multiple coaches with him from Los Angeles — including offensive coordinator Zac Robinson and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, both of whom are expected to call plays for the Falcons.

One thing every candidate agreed on, though, was the state of Atlanta’s quarterback room — which had Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside in it. In Morris’ news conference, he said they’d explore every avenue to help improve the quarterback situation.

On Friday, Blank echoed that through his conversations with the potential coaching hires — a coaching process that Blank said was a group process with neither Fontenot nor CEO Rich McKay leading it. He said a “group is what really drove it.”

And what that group heard was that help was needed at quarterback. Blank said there’s not a defined plan yet but it’s going to be talked about “pretty intensely over the next coming weeks.”

“I don’t think there’s anybody that we spoke to who would define our quarterback situation as anything other than something that needs work,” Blank said. “And I’m being kind. This is not a criticism of the players.

“I said this during the press conference sometimes what makes a quarterback either really good or not so good, it’s not just how he’s playing the game but the scheme they’re in, the plays that are being called, just a variety of things that go into making good quarterback play.”

Blank said they know they have to improve at the position — both in 2024 and beyond — and no one disagreed on that point, which will likely be the most important focus of Morris and Fontenot in their first offseason together.

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