THE DC SEARCH: Spagnuolo, Nolan are of interest

Former St. Louis Coach Steve Spagnuolo had a great defense in New York. (Seth Perlman / Associated Press)

Former St. Louis Coach Steve Spagnuolo had a great defense in New York. (Seth Perlman / Associated Press)

The top two candidates for the vacant defensive coordinator position are Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Nolan.

Despite revamping the secondary and trying to bolster the pass rush, the Falcons struggled to improve their pass defense. Since 2008, they’ve ranked 21st (2008, 220.4), 28th (2009, 241.9), 22nd (2010, 226.6) and 20th (2011, 236.6).

“Moving forward, this defense needs to continue its growth and evolution as a passionate and fiery defense, one that is going to fly to the football, disrupt, be opportunistic and capitalized on opportunities to turn the game around; flip the game in critical situations,” Dimitroff said. “We’ll look for a coordinator who will [aid] Coach Smith and his approach to putting that type of aggressive defense on the field.”

Having previous ties to Smith is not a prerequisite.

“Obviously, that coordinator is going to work hand-and-hand with Mike Smith in helping to create a very aggressive defense,” Dimitroff said. “Our hope is that we will, in the very near future, land that individual who we think is very appropriate with his approach to helping this defense grow.”

Among the hot names being mentioned for defensive coordinator in coaches’ agent circles are former St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Nolan. Former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio and Smith have worked together in the past, but a reunion is not likely.

The Falcons could get into a bidding war for Spagnuolo, who’s also being courted by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was an assistant coach for the Eagles from 1999-2006.

Spagnuolo is especially attractive to the Falcons because his defenses have performed well in the playoffs. When Spagnuolo was coordinator for the New York Giants, his defense stopped the 18-0 New England Patriots and sacked Tom Brady five times in Super Bowl XLII.

Nolan is considered a 3-4 coach. But Smith’s respect him from their days together in Baltimore runs deep. They could likely mold the principles of Nolan’s 3-4 with Smith’s 4-3 if necessary.

When the team does hire new coordinators, team owner Arthur Blank expects them bring a new set of eyes and expertise to the team.

“Their ability . . . to be totally objective, cold-hearted and unemotional about the young men that we have on the roster [should be an asset],” Blank said. “[We’ll] bring in some folks that will be able to give us maybe some new perspective, maybe some different perspective not only on team questions, but on player issues that we may have as well.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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251 comments Add your comment

falconsrelax

January 13th, 2012
6:53 am

Heard Mel Tucker is staying in Jacksonville. I wanted mel tucker…..what he did with that jaguars defense was amazing. I don’t even know their cornerbacks. I think spags is going to philly. Im guessing nolan will be our coordinator. But didn’t he teach a 3-4??

longtimefan

January 13th, 2012
6:54 am

The process continues…

F-105 Thunderchief

January 13th, 2012
6:55 am

Those are some good candidates. Hope they can reel one of them in.

AtlantaFAN

January 13th, 2012
7:05 am

As long as there is no more soft zone…

Whopper Dawg

January 13th, 2012
7:06 am

“Moving forward, this defense needs to continue its growth and evolution as a passionate and fiery defense, one that is going to fly to the football, disrupt, be opportunistic and capitalized on opportunities to turn the game around; flip the game in critical situations,” Dimitroff said. “We’ll look for a coordinator who will [aid] Coach Smith and his approach to putting that type of aggressive defense on the field.”

This guy sounds like the consummate corporate bull shooter. Blank needs to jettison this dude as soon as possible. If I were the owner and he told me something like this, I would hit him in the mouth. Sad, really.

just sayin'

January 13th, 2012
7:13 am

3/4….4/3…doesn’t make a difference if you don’t have the talent…man to man….zone…now here’s where atl could alter their scheme to fit the talent…not seen many ‘cover’ guys who made good tacklers..make your choice of the D and then get the talent…hard to ‘mold’ any scheme without the basic talent….

where are the real fans

January 13th, 2012
7:16 am

I like the comment Mr. Blank said, “Their ability . . . to be totally objective, cold-hearted and unemotional about the young men that we have on the roster [should be an asset],” “[We’ll] bring in some folks that will be able to give us maybe some new perspective, maybe some different perspective not only on team questions, but on player issues that we may have as well.” That shows me that the kids gloves are off for everyone in that locker room. It could be something that is needed to help the team take that next step forward.

DC Dirty Bird

January 13th, 2012
7:17 am

Whopper Dawg, when have you heard any GM come out and trash a coach or the team. Think about it, if our defense was already all of those things, would we need to “continue its growth and evolution”?

BTW, Mike Nolan ran 4-3 defenses until he became the Jets DC under Al Groh.

I like Spags not because of his success with NYG, but because his defense had Brees on the turf all day in the Rams upset win over the Saints.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 13th, 2012
7:22 am

falconsrelax – Yeah, Mel Tucker is staying put. That defense was good last year. Loved that game against the Ravens.

Ed

January 13th, 2012
7:24 am

I think Spags would be a great fit.

Ken

January 13th, 2012
7:30 am

Arthur open the checkbook and get Spags!!!!

Kramer

January 13th, 2012
7:31 am

Whopper dawg, get freakin’ real. TD is not going anywhere nor should he. Please learn the game before you play arm chair GM. Either name mentioned here would be a good addition although if Nolan is a 3-4 man he might have issues with the 4-3.

In the 99% wanting to get in the 1%

January 13th, 2012
7:42 am

Bobo and Willie Martinez could be had. Cheap.

Roger

January 13th, 2012
7:47 am

Ledbetter – If you are to be a serious writer/wordsmith you need some work. “They could likely mold the principles of Nolan’s 3-4 with Smith’s 4-3 if necessary” The would should be meld, not mold.

falconfan on da ledge

January 13th, 2012
7:51 am

@in the 99%, seriously!!! dude we wanna go back down that college coordinator road again…have you forgotten we just unloaded a college style DC and you want to bring another in…PLEEZ!!! STOP DRINKING THE HOMER KOOL-AID!!!!

Michael M.

January 13th, 2012
7:56 am

With pass happy offenses , I don’t care what you think you have on defense and a DC. They are just too hard to stop ! Eventually if left on the field long enough they will wear down, even the best defenses. The Goal is to build the best most high powered offense that can score touchdowns every time they touch the ball. As in the Green Bay Packers ! Enough said !

SirReal

January 13th, 2012
8:14 am

When you guys start working for the paper then you can dictate punctuation. Until then, just stick to the subject. ( Like we all havent had typos before.lol) ANYway…D Led I really wanted Tucker too but I think Nolan would be nice. We have the LBs for a 3-4 but I’m weary about the power pigs that are supposed to anchor the line…we have none. Do you think there’s a dark horse candidate? Some bright defensive guy that no one’s talking about?

SirReal

January 13th, 2012
8:15 am

@whopper dawg I agree….nothing but good ol corporate speak.lol He said that when he first started. Dont think he should leave just yet…give him one more year to rectify some of the BS he’s done.

The Real Falcon

January 13th, 2012
8:17 am

Why would we hire a coach who’s entire experience is 3-4 and ask him to change his core style?
That would not be a good fir for him or the players.

ddawgdavis

January 13th, 2012
8:18 am

Billick (brother in law) and Nolan would be a a definite upgrade and a nice addition going into next season.

The Real Falcon

January 13th, 2012
8:21 am

We don’t have the LBs for a 3-4. Peterson is done an no one else left has extensive playing time. Also a 3-4 requires 3 DT-style lineman. Our DTs don’t even get a push up the middle playing 4 DLs.
So now we’re talking about getting larger DTs and extra LBs when we don’t have a #1 and a #4 and are up against the salary cap.
Not going to happen.

The Real Falcon

January 13th, 2012
8:22 am

Billick is not going to be an assistant.

1eyedJack

January 13th, 2012
8:25 am

“Some bright defensive guy that no one’s talking about?”

Absolutely there is. The problem is identifying that guy.

Roger

January 13th, 2012
8:30 am

And, falconfan on da ledge, are you too stupid to recognize an obvious sarcastic comment.

SirReal

January 13th, 2012
8:37 am

@ The Real Falcon Just saying I think a 3-4 would be good. We DO have the LBs…just not much else.lol OLBs= Spoon & Dent ILBs= Lofton & Nicholas. Spoon could definitely be our edge rusher in a 3-4 system. Yeah probably wont happen.lol Just throwing it out there.

@1eyedJack Well they need to find him.LOL There is a LOT of talent at this level and hopefully they’ll find the right guy.

I'm Gumby, Dammit!!

January 13th, 2012
8:56 am

Can we please cut withe the LOL crap. What is this, high school??

Josey Wells

January 13th, 2012
8:58 am

I should be the new Offensive Coordinator, I kill everbody in Madden….LoL. My salary will only be about $200K a year(untaxed).
My perks will be: I can date any of the Falcon’s Cheerleaders. Plus I am the only hiring manager for Hooters……I’m a hands on manager…….Ok my real name is Eddie “tight shirt” long

Josey Wells

January 13th, 2012
8:58 am

Gumby…………LoL

mark

January 13th, 2012
9:22 am

Dled what is your thoughts on Sprags vs Nolan and have you heard of any dark horses or off the radar guys? It seemed with BVG we had a bend don’t break attitude afraid of giving up the big play do you think new DC will change that?

In consistent BloGGer

January 13th, 2012
9:30 am

What is this?

Nolan is considered a 3-4 coache. But Smith’s respect him from their days together in Baltimore is deep.

No way are you so busy you can\’t proof read.

BTW, excellent post about Mularkey….Well done.

joe white

January 13th, 2012
9:33 am

I would not mind either of the two coach’s for our dc spot, however I do want a good oc cause this team is loaded and can be a top scoring team in the league, I am sure the next dc will turn heads and have us on track for sure.

TriggaDirtyBird

January 13th, 2012
9:33 am

Steve Spagnuolo!! we need someone who has a championship mentality his defense stays prepared

Email Profiling Is Wrong

January 13th, 2012
9:39 am

@Whopper Dawg

I think you nailed it. Dimitroff’s post-season responses are nothing but CYA corporate-speak. Whatta load of crap. That paragraph you included in your post is cotton candy – nothing but air and completely void of substance. I don’t know if he thinks the media and fan base are stupid, or he’s stalling because he just flat doesn’t have a plan.

TD’s comments remind me of the 500 word essays middle school kids have to write on reading assignments. They didn’t read the book, but they have a word quota to meet. They got nothing intelligent to say, but that blank sheet of paper is staring up at them.

So they pad their word count by repeating the subject of the theme repeatedly and use adjectives at a shameless frequency. “I think Moby Dick is one of the greatest examples of mid-19th century American literature because Melville is a very, very good author and Moby Dick is a very, very good example of great mid-19th century American literature.”

Actually, I took that verbatim from Dimitroff’s sixth grade essay on Melville and Moby Dick.

TD is beginning to look like a snake oil saleman. A very, very good snake oil salesman.

But bottom line is that those comments coupled with the team’s abysmal performance against quality opponents the last two years

Keith Denmark

January 13th, 2012
9:41 am

We need someone who can make the offense step up. as for defense. Dunta robinson needs to go.

layinlow

January 13th, 2012
9:53 am

Too much focus being put on the coaching and not enough towards the talent on the field. This team has no real difference makers on defense other than ABE and he is probably gone. Dimitroff got off to a good start here but his star is starting to fade. He has drafted quite a few bust on defense- jerry, owens, sidbury, etc. And giving the overrated dunta robinson a huge contract was a big mistake! Did it not occur to him why the Texans were happy to part ways with this guy? I knew this was a bad move because teams don’t part with great corners entering their prime. What did Houston do? They turned around and signed Johnathon Joseph who just happened to end up being the best free agent corner. Dimitroff was clearly outsmarted on that move. Blank is a sharp guy and I wonder if he is beginning to doubt some of Dimtroff’s personnel decisions. I know i am.

Mike Nolan

January 13th, 2012
10:08 am

Guys, just though I would let you know that I’m still employed by the Miami Dolphins.

PMC

January 13th, 2012
10:13 am

Man, this is much more plesant of a view than the offensive side.

I’ve been harping on talent all year especially since they went so weak in this past draft, again, DRAFTING a kicker with so many holes on the defense.

Yeah Bosher finished pretty good. He still is 10 yards shorter than everyone else in the league on kick offs but he punted decent. Doesn’t take away from the fact that the pick was wasted.

The Texans btw were awful the year they waited to get Joseph. Robinson got big money because he was in position to get the big money. It’s been mostly bad here though. Hasn’t worked out. Perhaps a scheme change will make a difference.

The Peria Jerry whiff though hurts. The offensive line whiffs hurt more.

IS Sidbury EVER going to develop or are we going to wait forever? Biermann is a quality backup, he should not be starting. Edwards was signed out of desperation as much as anything.

Dimitroff has to hit the next two years out of the park in the draft and FA or he’ll be moved up to “president” as well. The choices they have made on quite a few players just aren’t defensible. It makes no sense.

This team professes to want to be physical but you never see it when they play other physical teams.

Bill

January 13th, 2012
10:15 am

Get Steve Spagnuolo sp. ASP Please.

OC..Phil Philbin..

Ken Strickland

January 13th, 2012
10:20 am

WHOPPER DAWG-As soon as Smitty realized his A$$ is on the line, he’s suddenly saying all of the things he thinks everyone whats to hear. After 5yrs of presiding over the NFLs softest, most passive, nonaggressive DEF, which ranked near the bottom of the league for 5 consecutive yrs, and doing absolutely nothing about it, he suddenly decides he wants an aggressive attacking DEF. I’ll be he also wants the OFF to open up and become more aggressive as well, and be less predictable and conservative.

Well, after 5yrs of his conservative and predictable BS, it seems to have finally gotten through his thick skull that he’d better back off and let someone else run his OFF and DEF. Someone who actually knows something about 21st century football, and how to design and run a 21st century OFF and DEF.

Walker, Texas Ranger

January 13th, 2012
10:21 am

or Regis Philbin

Bill

January 13th, 2012
10:29 am

sorry thats “Joe” Philbin. don’t know a phil philbin

FalconFan on da ledge

January 13th, 2012
10:29 am

@roger yes I am, I just know that all of you Georgia homers are always politicking for the same ole good boys that run that campus in Athens and feel that they would make great coaches in the NFL…again back away from the still (did you get that sarcastic comment)

Rev Blake

January 13th, 2012
10:40 am

I tend to agree with those who say we need the right talent on the field. My biggest concern is Matt Ryan and the offensive line. Ryan is beginning to mimic the “Joey Harrington, happy-feet, checkdown too quickly” dance. He needs BEEF and skill on the O-line (immediately) and then he needs to be re-taught how to step UP in the pocket.

Josey Wells

January 13th, 2012
10:42 am

Spagnuolo is not coming, he’s will be coach in waiting in Philly. Plus he use to coach there and Philly is a better situation than Atlanta. Singletary should be the new DC for the Falcons. That 49ers Defense is all Mike Singletary. I would never hire a GM that didn’t eat meat………

Durt E Byrd

January 13th, 2012
10:42 am

Who knows… maybe Blank has finally learned that selling a winning team is greater than hyping named players…

BasementGM

January 13th, 2012
10:44 am

I would like to to see M. Singletary get a look. I like his toughness and aggressive style. I know the HC thing did not work out for him but would like to see what he could do as a DC. The SF defenses under him were all solid to very good.

Josey Wells

January 13th, 2012
10:46 am

Saban is the best coach in the SEC, he couldn’t make it in the NFL. So why in the hell would someone want a subpar coach from UGA to be coaching in the NFL. This is not the BCS, this is a grown man’s game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chop Buster

January 13th, 2012
10:55 am

I wouldn’t have a problem with either of these guys. Spags is known for his aggressive defenses and Nolan did a great job turning around Miami’s defense this past year. My first choice would be Spags.

Die Hard Falcon

January 13th, 2012
11:01 am

Nolan or Spagnuolo, both are great D coaches, look at what Nolan did in Denver in 1 year he made the D a top unit and when he went to Miami, samae thing, Spags would fit the personnel we already have better, but w/ so many free agents, we actually do have a decent amount of cap room next year and could make changes to a 3-4 if necessary, at least from a cap space perspective. Finding players as FA’s and in the draft can be difficult w/ so many teams switching to a 3-4. We’re projected at about 96Million towards the 2012 cap which gives us a decent amount of room, especially since I don’t see any of our FA’s demanding huge paydays, if MR2 signs and extension, maybe we could shift the numbers and get a lower cap # on him, plus I think Dunta either needs to take a paycut or get traded, if the Falcons were smart and frontloaded his contract, the hit for getting rid of him could be negligible. It’s all potential until things start playing out. Go Falcons!

Chop Buster

January 13th, 2012
11:01 am

Ken I too have been very frustrated with Smitty’s double-talk (say one thing and do another). I guess Arthur and TD are giving Smitty a reprive. He’s under a big microscope now and there’s no room for continued screw-ups.