5 Candidates For Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator If Raheem Morris Becomes Head Coach

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles | Rams Defensive Coordinator
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With the conclusion of the regular season, a lot of gray areas arise with coaching changes, both from teams looking to hire and teams looking to make some changes, including the Los Angeles Rams and the Rams Defensive Coordinator position.

Then there are the teams that are still playing and those coaches, as well as the players, have to deflect all the news and rumors and focus on trying to reach the coveted Super Bowl before any moves are made within their respective organization.

As of Wednesday afternoon, eight teams are looking for a new head coach (and eventual coaches to round out the staff) as well as a couple of other teams looking to fill positions on one side of the ball for teams such as Jacksonville and the New York Giants. That’s one-third of the NFL looking for new coaches heading into the 2024 season.

With all of the openings available this time of year, it is also a time when teams are seeing who wants a promotion with a different team, both in terms of going from a coordinator position to a head coach or from a position coach to coordinator, or coordinator to coordinator position but for a better financial commitment and more play calling responsibility (teams can block this move).

The winning teams have put their coaches in a position for a promotion, including the Los Angeles Rams, whose defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is in a position to be a head coach next year.

What Makes Raheem Morris An Option To Be A Head Coaching Candidate?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
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Morris excelled with the players he had this season, especially with younger players.

Defensive tackle Kobie Turner is a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Add in the production from young players such as linebacker Ernest Jones IV, defensive backs Cobie Durant and Derion Kendrick, as well as rookie outside linebacker Byron Young, Morris has shown he can set up young, defensive players for success, which has been a big part in the team winning seven of its final eight games to reach the postseason.

As a collective during the regular season, the Rams defense ranked sixth in opponent completion percentage, and 12th in holding wide receivers to an 88.7 rating, while having three different players recording at least 8.0 sacks.

Being able to have that winning experience with less-experienced NFL players goes a long way, especially for the eight teams looking for a head coach and having to restart by building a foundation, which most likely begins with youth.

Morris, who has been with the Rams for the last three seasons, including being part of the Rams Super Bowl-winning team, is working with head coach Sean McVay on the third separate occasion. The two began the relationship together in 2008 with Tampa Bay and were together in Washington from 2012-14.

5 Candidates To Replace Raheem Morris As The Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator

Aubrey Pleasant Or Chris Beake

If the Rams decide to choose a defensive coordinator in-house – although McVay has not done that in the past – the two coaches who have the best chance are the team’s secondary coach Chris Beake and defensive backs/pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant. Both have coached for double-digit seasons, including Beake working season No. 25 this year.

This is season No. 5 for Pleasant in the Rams organization, making a return after being on the staff from 2017-2020, which included winning two NFC West division titles, three postseason appearances, and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2018. Throughout Pleasant’s coaching career, he has helped players earn recognition, including cornerback Marcus Peters and defensive back Jalen Ramsey earn AP First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Beake, who is finishing up his second season with the Rams, moved from inside linebackers coach to secondary this season and, like Peasant, has guided players to have strong seasons. Last year, Beake helped linebacker Bobby Wagner have a career by finishing three tackles short of setting the Rams’ franchise record in a single season but still was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated linebacker.

Beake has also spent time in Denver, Cleveland, Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco, where he has helped players reach their potential by going to the playoffs and being part of Denver’s Super Bowl-winning team in 2015.

* Editor’s Note: Defensive Line Coach Eric Henderson would have been the top in-house choice, be once the season ended, he took a job with the USC Trojans.

Wink Martindale

In 2023, Wink Martindale was the New York Giants defensive coordinator. Last month, the Rams saw firsthand what it was like facing Martindale’s defense in a 26-25 victory. In the game on New Year’s Eve, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

Stafford recorded an 85.0 quarterback rating, which was his worst performance compared to his previous five games, which explains the success Martindale has on his defense, led by the back-to-back Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence.

Martindale, who was in Baltimore before arriving in the Big Apple, provides that experience and potential trust if a defensive coordinator position opens for the Blue and Gold.

Brandon Staley

The former Los Angeles Chargers head coach had his most success in the NFL with the Rams. This could be somewhat of a seamless transition. Staley would not have to move, yet again, and would take over a defense that he orchestrated and constructed before Raheem Morris took over.

Now his defensive play-calling prowess has taken a bit of a hit since his time with the Chargers, but with his sole focus on the defense, and one of the best coaches in the game as his fearless leader, he could get back to 2020 form.

It is worth noting that he and Sean McVay have remained close friends and he was at his wedding this past year. After losing a great colleague like Raheem Morris, it could cut the sting a bit bringing Staley back.

Joe Whitt Jr.

Joe Whitt Jr. has been Dallas’ defensive backs coach since 2021. Even without the likes of cornerback Trevon Diggs, who was out with an injury, Whitt Jr. still had a weapon in his secondary in DaRon Bland, who led the NFL with nine interceptions.

Like Morris, Whitt Jr. has plenty of coaching experience, now for 17 seasons where he also spent time in Cleveland, Green Bay, and Atlanta while being part of some winning teams, including winning a Super Bowl, as well as mentoring young players such as A.J. Terrell with the Falcons in 2020, and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson in 2009. As a collective, Whitt Jr. led defenses to lead the NFL in numerous statistical categories, including pass rate, interceptions, and pass breakups.

This would be one of those promotions if McVay, as well as General Manager Les Snead, feel that Whitt Jr. can lead a defense.