Falcons hire Mike Nolan as new defensive coordinator

We know that Mike Nolan likes to wear suits. We'll have to see if needs some advice on bow-ties. (Associated Press)

We know that Mike Nolan likes to wear suits. We'll have to see if needs some advice on bow-ties. (Associated Press)

The Falcons hired Mike Nolan, who received his start in coaching from Dan Reeves, as their new defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

He replaces Brian VanGorder, who left the team last week to become Auburn’s new defensive coordinator.

Nolan is considered a 3-4 coach. But Falcons coach Mike Smith’s respect for him from their days together in Baltimore runs deep. They will blend the principles of Nolan’s 3-4 with Smith’s 4-3.

The Falcons hired Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator on Sunday.

 Team owner Arthur Blank expects the new coordinators to 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.”

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,” general manager Thomas 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.”

Nolan has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for 14 seasons. He also was San Francisco’s head coach from 2005 to 2008.

“Mike Nolan is an established coordinator in this League,” said Falcons head coach Mike Smith in a statement released by the team. “He brings more than 25 years of NFL experience to our team and has been a coordinator at this level for 14 years. Mike has a history of developing physically intimidating defensive units, and we are fortunate to have him join our staff.”

Nolan spent the last two seasons as the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator.

Last season, the Dolphins boasted the third best run defense in the NFL, allowing just 95.6 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. His defense also produced 41 sacks which ranked tied for 10th in the NFL  and allowed the sixth fewest points per game at 19.6. The Dolphins also ranked seventh in third-down percentage (33.8) and sixth in red zone defense, holding opponents to a 44.2 touchdown percentage inside the 20.

In 2010, Nolan’s defense ranked among the league’s top ten in overall defense, pass defense and run defense, and was one of just five units in the League to accomplish that feat. Nolan joined Miami after spending the 2009 season as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Under his tutelage, Denver’s defense improved to seventh in the NFL in total defense after finishing 29th in 2008. Denver’s pass defense was equally impressive, ranking third in the NFL, allowing just 186.3 yards per game through the air.

Prior to joining the Broncos’ staff, Nolan served as the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach from 2005 to 2008. During Nolan’s four-year tenure with the club, the 49ers were one of the NFL’s most consistent teams in stopping the run. San Francisco ranked fourth in the league in yards per carry during that period surrendering just 3.9 yards per rush.

Nolan spent four seasons in Baltimore from 2001 to 2004, including the last three as the defensive coordinator. Nolan’s group tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (106) while ranking fifth in the league in both points per game allowed (18.8) and third down percentage (34.7). He also coached five Ravens defenders to nine trips to the Pro Bowl, while tutoring back-to-back AP Defensive Players of the Year in LB Ray Lewis (2003) and S Ed Reed (2004).

The New York Giants made Nolan the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinator in 1993 at the age of 34. He spent the next eight seasons as a defensive coordinator with the Giants (1993-96), Redskins (1997-99) and Jets (2000). In his first year with the Giants, his defense led the League allowing just 12.8 points per game. His coaching career began at his alma mater, Oregon University, where he served as a graduate assistant in 1981. He went on to coach at Stanford University and Rice University as a linebackers and defensive backs coach before the Denver Broncos hired him to be the special teams/linebackers coach in 1987. He spent six seasons with the Broncos and helped the team reach the Super Bowl in the 1987 and 1989 seasons.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

404 comments Add your comment

Sid

January 17th, 2012
3:14 pm

my head is spinning…………lol

GDawg

January 17th, 2012
3:14 pm

TROY

January 17th, 2012
3:14 pm

tj

January 17th, 2012
3:14 pm

GDawg

January 17th, 2012
3:15 pm

Sid

January 17th, 2012
3:15 pm

It will be interesting to see what they do down in the Bayou…………..

I'm with ATL teams (Always)

January 17th, 2012
3:16 pm

Michael M.

January 17th, 2012
3:17 pm

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

tj

January 17th, 2012
3:17 pm

damn it. But what whats the point,Smith already said we have drafted for the 4-3 not the 3-4. So in other words we wont run the 3-4

tgueboy

January 17th, 2012
3:18 pm

i prefered spaggs

Mr. Phil

January 17th, 2012
3:18 pm

Ok. Great hire but. Do we have the personal for a 3-4? You can’t just mold principals.

ICE MELTS IN RAIN

January 17th, 2012
3:20 pm

Another safe “good ole boy” hire by Smith…

Foul-can

January 17th, 2012
3:20 pm

Outside of his years at B-More, why is this a good hire?

Shoz

January 17th, 2012
3:21 pm

D-LED, do you proofread ANYTHING before you post it?? For God’s sake, man, you’re a WRITER! Learn to WRITE! Here, let me help:

“But Smith’s respect [for] him from their days together in Baltimore runs deep.”
“…team owner Arthur Blank expects them [to] bring a new set of eyes and expertise to the team.”

Also, I don’t hate the hire. Prefer “Spags,” but I’ll take Nolan…

jay

January 17th, 2012
3:21 pm

Nice hire! Can’t be nearly as terrible as Van Gorder. Now hopefully we’ll stop hiding behind zone defenses and play some real football.

eastcobbdawg

January 17th, 2012
3:22 pm

glad it isn’t CTG!!!
great hire

railman311

January 17th, 2012
3:22 pm

Was hoping for Spags but i like the hire GO BIRDS!!

Fan

January 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

Atlanta has the PLAYERS too run it and Mike Nolan is the prefect fit in GA. Mike do not play with the bull so the attitude will be a win and business attitude in GA. I will be a winning Attitude. This was the same man who put together the 49ers Defense and look where they are at now. His problem at that that was Offense. This is a great hire guys… I am happy

Rick

January 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

Anything over van gorder is a good hire…he needed to get a NFL DC….

dirty bird

January 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

interesting hire. What exactly does ‘he’s a 3-4 coach’ mean? There’s not much chance we run it, as we have 4-3 personnel and Smitty is a defensive guy himself…so, we hired a 3-4 guy to run a 4-3?
I guess we ran a three man line for a few years when Jamaal was in the lineup

Falcons_in_the_house

January 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

WoW… We are going to see totally different Falcons team next year… Blew me away with both hire.. .

3-4 DC… May be we are going hybrid as MS has been saying all along…

Jackson

January 17th, 2012
3:23 pm

Great hire! He’ll get the job done.

Tommy

January 17th, 2012
3:24 pm

Great hire. . . it beats waiting to try and fight the Eagles for Spagnoulo. Switching to a hybrid 3-4 won’t be as big of a shock as going to a pure 3-4, and with all of the FAs on defense they might be able to transition pretty quick.

Look for Abraham to be gone, with Weatherspoon and Edwards benefiting most from the switch. Adkins and Dent will see more playing time, Babineaux (if he is still here in 2012) losing some time. We’ll probably also see more man and press coverage in the secondary, which will help Robinson.

Alright

January 17th, 2012
3:24 pm

Kroy Bierman and John Abe both played a good amount from the two point stance this year and they both played linebacker in college. 3-4 outside backers are athletic d-ends
Lofton and spoon in the middle
Babeniuex and Peters rotate at strongside DT
Edwards backside end
go get a NT

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris, I don't care

January 17th, 2012
3:24 pm

Another good one. Let’s get a guy with fundamental differences of opinion as the HC. That’s going to be a nice oil and vinegar combination.

Just started looking forward to the 2014 season, thanks guys.

kevin

January 17th, 2012
3:25 pm

Falcons fans will forever live in mediocrity.

Nik

January 17th, 2012
3:25 pm

This is strange to me…But whatever, Just Win…Because the rest of the division is catching up fast.

Tony B

January 17th, 2012
3:25 pm

Awesome news!! Our defense will be much more aggressive! I don’t think VanGorder was cut out for being an NFL Coordinator.

Coach Reeves

January 17th, 2012
3:26 pm

Solid hire. Yeah, I know everybody wanted Spags but Nolan knows what he’s doing…it’ll be interesting to see how he meshes his 3-4 scheme with our 4-3 personnel…

GaDawgs7

January 17th, 2012
3:26 pm

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.”

That sounds like he’s saying that, no matter who the coach is, we’ll continue to limit blitzes and play the soft zone since that’s what coach Smith wants.
Why not hire experienced coordinators (which we did) and then let them coach to their strengths as well as the strengths of the players. Doesn’t matter if you have 51 flavors if your head coach insists on just serving up vanilla on both sides of the ball.

Jeff George

January 17th, 2012
3:26 pm

This is great. I love the hire. Mike Smith is awesome. I hope he is able to continue the prgress he had with Mularkey and VanGorder.
I am 100% certain that he will trust his new coordinators and not micro-manage them into conservative football play-calling oblivion. He would never do that. Nothing in his four-year Falcons history suggests that he would.
This is great. I gotta go call Mom and tell her about this. She’s gonna be so excited. She loves Smitty and will be thrilled to know that Dimitroff is hiring all of his very bestest friends to be his totally empowered co-leaders.

nice hire

January 17th, 2012
3:26 pm

Nolan has had some good Defenses over the years. Maybe the 3-4 can solve some QB pressure issues, the 4 man front hasn’t been able to penetrate the line of scrimmage.

Sid

January 17th, 2012
3:27 pm

I bet Dan Reeves loves this hire!

Hardy Falcon

January 17th, 2012
3:27 pm

Smith is a Moron, we don’t have the people to do a 3-4, Hury up and FIRE Smitty he does not know how to win the BIG-ONE

CrαZy

January 17th, 2012
3:28 pm

FACT: people will complain no matter who the hire was!!

Sometimes I think people were happier back before we couldn’t win back to back seasons!!!

Falcons_in_the_house

January 17th, 2012
3:28 pm

Abe is gone… He never liked 3-4 in Jets that’s why he moved to us….

But I can’t wait to see Lofton, Weatherspoon, Adkins/Nicholoas, Bierman/Sidbury as LB….

Dang… W.Moore might be flying there…

Shady

January 17th, 2012
3:29 pm

Falcons_in_the_house

January 17th, 2012
3:29 pm

Falcons Fan.. This is the new era.. stop complaining….

You never liked BVG and finally we got a good coach.. hopefully TD puts some pieces together for Nolan

Michael M.

January 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

You guys should cheer up and be positive now because it could have been a somebody never expected and I was expecting the worse. Right now I’m a happy little kid in the candy store and grateful.

May have to change my thinking on the 2012 Season..the Team may just surprise us all….going to lay low and see what and where they go from here

Bluestreak

January 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

Why is it that folks act as if a HC hiring staff from people they are familiar with and have worked with in the past is such a shock. It happens all the time. Look at Williams leaving NO to go coach with his buddy Fisher. Goes from a first place to last place team to coach with a friend/old co-worker.

And safe hires are great, that means that they should perform to save their head coach’s butt.

Sid

January 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

kevin January 17th, 2012 3:25 pm
Falcons fans will forever live in mediocrity.
*************************************************
Hey, finally a Bayou peeshwank sticks his head out of his hole. C’mon, mention how great your team is…………

Shamrock

January 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

LOL’ing @ dirtybird. Jamaal Anderson jokes never get old.

atlppal

January 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

Spaggs wants to go to the Saints because he knows what kind of offense they have. Falcons will finish 3rd in the division next year. Carolina will finish second behind the Saints.

CrαZy

January 17th, 2012
3:31 pm

Hardy Falcon

Did you even read the article??

E-Roll

January 17th, 2012
3:32 pm

So does this mean I can get some Spoon coming off the corner at the other team’s quaterback now?

SirReal

January 17th, 2012
3:33 pm

People always complain. There is just no appeasing some people. If they’d have hired Boz Scaggs to run the D, that would have been fine I guess. Or how about Michael Phelps? What about Heathcliff the cat? Come on! We hired a PROVEN NFL-caliber coordinator. His units turn around no matter where he goes. Denver ran a 4-3 before he came. They switched to 3-4 and Dumervil became a star. I like the hire and really dont care for spoiled fans opinions….guess like Crazy said, we should just go back to when we were perrenial losers. Look for Spoon to be the next Dumervil.

CrαZy

January 17th, 2012
3:33 pm

So does this mean I can get some Spoon coming off the corner at the other team’s quaterback now?

I hope so!!!

mark

January 17th, 2012
3:35 pm

i love it! thanks about time to step up and make a nice move! i love it!!!!!! really! love it! cant ask for anything else!

Mr. Riley

January 17th, 2012
3:35 pm

don’t know what to say of this hire? I haven’t really paid much attention to the Dolphins, but at this point I guess its worth a crap shot…I would have rather gotten Spag, but with this team you never really know sometimes…

Ryan

January 17th, 2012
3:35 pm

Mike Smith just keeps hiring his buddies. Things have gone from bad to worse in Flowery Branch.