ATLANTA -- The Falcons are going back to their past to try and solidify their future.

The Falcons have hired Raheem Morris as their coach, the team announced Thursday, making him the first former NFL head coach that owner Arthur Blank has hired in his 20-plus-year ownership tenure.

Morris is the first full-time Black head coach in the franchise's history.

"This is a historic day for the Atlanta Falcons," Blank said in a statement. "We are thrilled to welcome Raheem Morris back to Atlanta as the team's new head coach. ... Raheem emerged from a field of excellent candidates and is the right leader to take our team into the future.

"His time in LA has given him an enhanced perspective on everything from personnel, team operations, game planning, working with an outstanding offensive staff and many other things that has helped him develop into an even more prepared coach in all aspects of the game. I believe his leadership skills have grown and his understanding of what it takes to have a highly collaborative one-team culture are now at a much higher level."

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Morris' hire comes after an extensive search that featured 14 candidates, including former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and former Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who was hired Wednesday by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Morris was one of four coaches who had second interviews with the club. The others were Belichick, Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. The Falcons are the only team Belichick is known to have interviewed with -- and they've decided to go in another direction.

This marks a return to Flowery Branch, Georgia, for Morris, who was Atlanta's interim coach for 11 games in 2020 after the club fired Dan Quinn midway through the season. Morris went 4-7 with that team but was not given the full-time job. Instead, the club hired Arthur Smith.

Now, after three years and Smith being fired by the Falcons on Jan. 8, the Falcons have decided to return to Morris and hire him as their full-time coach.

"I am overjoyed for the opportunity for my family and I to return to Atlanta as the Falcons head coach," Morris said in a statement. "We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans. I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team."

Morris, 47, spent the past three seasons as the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator, including winning a Super Bowl with the Rams in 2021.

This will be Morris' second stint as a full-time NFL head coach. He previously was the coach in Tampa Bay, where he went 17-31 over three seasons from 2009 to '11.

Morris then went to Washington as the defensive backs coach from 2012 to '14 before his first stint with the Falcons -- first serving as defensive pass game coordinator in 2015 and then receivers coach from 2016 to '19, while also being Atlanta's assistant head coach.

He was named the Falcons' defensive coordinator in 2020 and was bumped to interim head coach after Quinn's firing.

He takes over for Smith, who was fired after three seasons in which he went 21-30. Morris inherits a defense featuring second-team All-Pro safety Jessie Bates III, cornerback A.J. Terrell and defensive lineman Grady Jarrett. He also gets talented skill-position players on offense, including tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London, running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier and two offensive linemen who were there during his last stint with Atlanta -- left tackle Jake Matthews and right guard Chris Lindstrom.

"I'm beyond excited to work side-by-side with Raheem in bringing a championship to Atlanta," general manager Terry Fontenot said in a statement. "... Raheem is the right fit for our team, culture, and shared vision for success in Atlanta, and I cannot wait to start working with him and have his energy in our building."

Fontenot and Morris will report directly to Blank, instead of to CEO Rich McKay, as had been with the prior structure. McKay will remain in his position with AMB Sports and Entertainment, representing the team in league matters and on the NFL's competition committee. Greg Beadles remains the team president, handling day-to-day business operations.

During the Jan. 8 news conference to announce Smith's firing, it was stated that McKay still had day-to-day input even though it was thought he no longer did. McKay said he spoke with Smith and Fontenot "25 times a week."

On Thursday, Blank said McKay will "no longer be involved in day-to-day football operations," but that his role within Blank's overall businesses will expand, including becoming an associate director on the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation board.

Morris grew up in New Jersey and then played college football at Hofstra on Long Island, where he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant. He went to Cornell as a defensive backs coach in 1999 before returning to Hofstra as the defensive backs coach from 2000 to '01, then had his first stint in the NFL as a defensive assistant with the Buccaneers.

After Morris settles on his staff, his first order of work will be figuring out the quarterback situation. Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder remain on the roster, but Blank called the team's quarterback play last season "deficient," and it was one of the reasons that led to Smith's firing.

Rams quarterbacks/pass-game coordinator Zac Robinson will be a prime candidate to become Morris' offensive coordinator in Atlanta, league sources told Schefter. Morris will want to speak to multiple coaches about his O-coordinator job, but Robinson will be a strong candidate.