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New Atlanta Falcons head coach Raheem Morris wants to shed ‘interim’ label

Atlanta Falcons head coach Raheem Morris watches in a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis. (AP photo)

ATLANTA — Raheem Morris would prefer that everyone stay away from the “I” word.

Sure, he’s officially the interim head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, a caretaker role handed to him by a team that fired Dan Quinn after losing its first five games.

But Morris refuses to look at himself in a temporary sort of way.

“I don’t correct you guys every day because I’m angry at anybody,” he said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “If you’re in the moment of being an interim head coach, then you’ll be an interim head coach. … I’m focused on being the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.”

Morris’ second chance at a top job is off to a promising start. The Falcons finally picked up their first win of the season, romping past the Minnesota Vikings 40-23.

If Morris can conjure a few more performances like that one out of his team, he might earn serious consideration at keeping the job beyond this season.

The Falcons (1-5) will go for their second straight victory when they host the Detroit Lions (2-3) on Sunday.

“I’m being in the moment of going 1-0 this week,” Morris said.

He got his first head coaching gig more a decade ago, surprisingly taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at age 33 after Jon Gruden was fired.

Even though the Bucs posted a promising 10-6 mark in Morris’ second season, just missing the playoffs, he went 3-13 and 4-12 his other two years. He was fired after Tampa Bay ended 2011 with a 10-game losing streak.

When he allows himself a reflective moment, Morris, 44, knows he’s better prepared to handle the job this time around.

He points to all the head coaches he’s worked with over the years, from Gruden to Quinn to Mike Shanahan. He brings up his longstanding relationship with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, “one of my better friends in life.” He lists all the fellow assistants who went on to become head coaches, from Sean McVay to Kyle Shanahan to Matt LaFleur. He’s even provided advice to coaches-in-waiting such as Eric Bieniemy, who could very well could be in the running to take over the Falcons when the season is done.

“I think the development over the last couple of years has been really beneficial to me,” Morris said. “It really helped me.”

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