Falcons get it right hiring Mike Nolan to coach defense

Mike Nolan was given his first defensive coordinator's job by then-New York Giants coach Dan Reeves in 1993. (AP photo)

Mike Nolan was given his first defensive coordinator's job by then-New York Giants coach Dan Reeves in 1993. (AP photo)

If Dirk Koetter was the Falcons’ offseason hire that raised eyebrows, Mike Nolan is the one that should allay fears.

The Falcons hired Nolan as their defensive coordinator on Tuesday. Rest easy. Nolan, whose Miami Dolphins allowed the sixth fewest points in the NFL this season, has been viewed as one of the game’s premier defensive coordinators, going back to when then-New York Giants coach Dan Reeves hired him in 1993 at the age of only 34.

If Nolan can’t fix some of the team’s problems, it will be because of the team’s personnel issues, not because of a poor scheme or a lack of direction.

Nolan is known for having strong third-down defenses — Miami ranked seventh this season at 34 percent, the Falcons only 29th at 44 percent — and for creativity in terms of how he uses players on the defensive line.

This season as Miami’s coordinator, the Dolphins’ finished 15th in total defense but sixth overall in points allowed (19.6 per game). In 2010,  Nolan’s first season in Miami, the Dolphins ranked in the top 10 in overall, pass and run defense for only the eighth time in franchise history.

Steve Spagnuolo, the recent St. Louis Rams head coach and former New York Giants defensive coordinator, was probably the only hire that the Falcons could have made that would’ve been perceived as more of a grand slam. But Spagnuolo is weighing several offers and is known to be deliberate in his decision-making process. It would be understandable if the Falcons just wanted to put the matter to rest, rather than risk not getting either Nolan or Spagnuolo.

The Falcons needed a new result in the postseason. That meant they needed a new plan. Short of changing the head coach or the quarterback, they’ve changed as much as you could realistically expect. Gone are the offensive coordinator (Mike Mularkey), the defensive coordinator (Brian VanGorder), the quarterbacks coach (Bob Bratkowski) and the offensive line coach (Paul Boudreau, who was fired Tuesday).

Nolan’s first head coaching job with San Francisco did not go well (18-37). But he has never struggled to get a job on the defensive side of the ball. He has worked in in Denver, New York, Washington and Baltimore, where he overlapped with Falcons coach Mike Smith.

This decision, there’s no reason to question: The Falcons got it right.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

141 comments Add your comment

S Freud

January 18th, 2012
7:13 am

Well, maybe you didn’t use LMAO and :) this time, but you did when you were posting as CGD. But ALL CAPS? Pretty angry.
AS for my sweet little sister-in-law if you ever saw her you would know the answer to that.
BTW, when you drink your Sleepy Time tea, do you stick your little pinky out just so? Do you have a dainty little china cups, too?

JSS

January 18th, 2012
7:37 am

You are either mentally ill, are just stuck on stupid… “Posting as CGD?” You must have the brain cells of 3rd generation Russian Serf who was born in a gulag!

What’s taste got to do with sticking it to the Sister-in-law? Your insinuation about “multiple-user personality disorder” already shows you have no sense of judgment!

And that no one ever taught the difference between how you serve “high tea” with men as guest and a tea party for a gathering of ladies, well too bad!!!

Good luck with those sloppy seconds!

Samuel

January 18th, 2012
8:01 am

All i know is the pressures on Mike Smith at minimum, to win his first post -season game.

[...] to ajc.com, if Mike Nolan cannot pinpoint the problems with the Atlanta Falcons defense, then they will need [...]

CGD

January 18th, 2012
8:22 am

@Freud
I’m definitly not that dumba$$ (JSS), tea? with men ? haha what a joke

TroutFalcon

January 18th, 2012
8:30 am

Great hire by the Falcons, Nolan brings that aggressiveness that this defense needs.

No Way Norway

January 18th, 2012
8:38 am

Great hire ! Now they need to rescend the Koetter hire and get a legit OC.

No Way Norway

January 18th, 2012
8:41 am

Schultz : Deion Sanders’ wife has accused him of “committing numerous acts of adultery.” I’ll translate: He was playing a zone.

We definitely know that no TACKLING was involved. But prolly a lot of hi-stepping !

ATL

January 18th, 2012
8:45 am

Don’t let CGD fool you, he’s not a saints fan….he’s a packer fan. 100% sure !!! while arguing with him about the Atl/Gb playoff game, he slipped up and through the word “we” in there. hahaha whoopsie. He’s just a stanky cheese head, who like the Falcons, got man handled by the G-men. ha ha ha

Fuhgetaboutit

January 18th, 2012
8:46 am

Unless you can get Julio to play on the O-line and the D-line as well as being a receiver we are still toast. All the coaches in the world cannot win if they do not have talent. We have 15 free agents and no draft choices. Why? Because Dimitroff mortgaged our future for one WR

biff pocaroba

January 18th, 2012
8:59 am

van gorders defense was 12th overall and nolan’s was 15th and you call this an upgrade?

Durt E Byrd

January 18th, 2012
9:07 am

If Mike Smith can keep his hands off the Defense and let Nolan do his job then things will be fine.

If Mike Smith can NOT keep his hands off the Defense then Mike Smith will be gone next year.

All in all I think this was, indeed, a great hire!

Fuhgetaboutit

January 18th, 2012
9:14 am

I like Smitty. He is a good man. This one is on Dummytroff. With an aging bunch of free agents, salary cap issues and no draft choices to replace them we will not make the playoffs at all next year. Smitty will get a one year reprieve due to the coaching changes and it being a “transition year” and he will come back to coach in 2013, but remember, we have no draft choices to speak of until 2014 or beyond. Smitty goes two and out, coaching in 2012/13, failing to make the playoffs either year. He will lose his job, the victim of poor decisions on the personnel front, but McKay and Dummytroff will still be roaming the halls of Suwanee. We mortgaged the future for Julio. Sad, but true.

Chi Town

January 18th, 2012
9:15 am

Time will tell, personally, I prefered Mike Singletary as DC. But hey, I don’t control the purse strings. Mr. Blank needs to win right now, that divorce settlement will be coming down soon, might be a little pricey…….$$$$$$$…….

BILLY BOB BIRDY

January 18th, 2012
9:22 am

WHY DID VAN GORDER GO TO AUBURN.?. DID HE SEE THE WRITTING ON THE WALL?

Chi Town

January 18th, 2012
9:26 am

If Deion’s wife would like to get back at him, she can start with me!!!!

Pit Bull

January 18th, 2012
9:31 am

“Patty Ice” three Arena Football teams are waiting to sign U ….Go NOW !!!!! so U we don’t have to hear your Lame excuses next season….. UUUUUUUUU “Lump Noodle Arm”

True Falcon Fan

January 18th, 2012
9:37 am

Most of you are “utterly irrational”!!!!!

JSS – When are you going to learn, I see you’re still trying to express u’r true knowledge of the game and you are right in most cases. Anyone ever tell you to be patient, humble and unassuming? “NOPE”

Re: the DC hire, i would have much rather seen Spaggs or even Mike Singletary – Nolan is just OK, i think better than BVG!! He will be loyal to Smitty – the bottm-line is players make coaches look like they make it all happen. That being said, we’ll see soon enough how good Nolan is on his choice of players he hand picks to bring in to change or put his print on this Falcon team. Remember, Nolan is a true NFL coach!

Go Falcons

True Falcon Fan

January 18th, 2012
9:43 am

U only wish you fit the title “Pit Bull” – Go figure

woeismesince66

January 18th, 2012
10:15 am

The Falcons will rise from the ashes and be a very good team.

Falcon fan

January 18th, 2012
10:40 am

IF I WERE FALCONS OWNER, I WOULD HIRE ALL THE KNOW-ALL BLOGGER ON HERE. THEY KNOW MORE THAN PRO COACHES. THAT WOULD BE A GREAT HIRE, FOR PEE-WEE FOOTBALL!

SawThat1nce

January 18th, 2012
10:46 am

JS states that the Falcons need a plan to progress.
I think that a good plan, would be for the GM to build a stronger, bigger, tougher OLine, that can protect the passer and that can open running lanes for the runners.
Get an additional back, to go with Turner(someone like the saints Sproiles).
Build a bigger, faster, tougher, defensive front, that can get to the oppposing QB, and not give him all day to look for recievers.
I don’t know how Dimitroff can do it, but imo, that is what the Falcons needed in 2011.

Chi Town

January 18th, 2012
10:49 am

PEE WEE football, how much does it pay??

Dee

January 18th, 2012
11:14 am

Finally. A real NFL head coach with years of proven experience as our DC. A college coach such as Brian Van Gorder never should have been hired. Smitty really took a chance on hiring an idiot that couldn’t adjust against good offenses or rookie QBs.

JSS

January 18th, 2012
11:14 am

True Falcon Fan
January 18th, 2012
9:43 am
“U only wish you fit the title “Pit Bull” – Go figure”

Are you still talking? Do you ever think before you hit the “Submit Comment” button? Your little dog comparison is as silly as your playoff prediction! Shoot, you ought to have the sense to take sabbatical until August after all day long whipping administered the day after Christmas alone…

Statick

January 18th, 2012
11:16 am

I just hope Smitty give Nolan carte blanche on all defensive calls. Even though I thought the BVG hire was a bad one, I also think BVG was getting his scheme planning input from Smitty. I hope Nolan has the balls to tell Smith to back the hell off.

splendid splinter

January 18th, 2012
11:22 am

Just remember guys – if coaching and running a professional football team was easy, we would all be doing it. TD, MS, BVG, MM, AB are just like the rest of us. They do the best they can, pick the best personnel that is available (in their judgement) and move forward to play the schedule they are given. If some of you are so smart about fixing the problem, fill out an application, jump in and fix it. I’m sure your qualifications will get you the job.

Noneya

January 18th, 2012
11:34 am

I agree. They got it right with this one.

Days In The Lives Of Falcons Fans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QKLJ4wY_yQ

Sid

January 18th, 2012
11:45 am

Notice how the Peeshwank trolls from the Bayou will barely come out………….and if they do it’s Falcon trash talk under a different handle. No mention of their team going down in flames and being snuffed out in a wispy cloud of smoke off of the Pacific.

The anticipation of eating crow tastes almost as bad as the crow itself. C’mon back, we only want to kick you while you are down.

What's the cap on new CBA?

January 18th, 2012
12:10 pm

…..can’t AB / TD just pay the lux tax to go over the limit?

iceBIRDcold12

January 18th, 2012
12:14 pm

We should see a ROI on this hire real quick. Great job Falcons! I am excited to see the defense take the lead and let the offense roll hard but steady. Keep improving each year and keep making the playoffs every year is the goal. You can’t win or lose it if you are not in it. A full training camp will help us also as we need the offense to become more autoMATTYic.

True Falcon Fan

January 18th, 2012
12:14 pm

JSS – like i said: Patience, humility & unassuming —- You still don’t get it!!!

Did you find that “pawn shop in Canton yet”? It surely is located close to you…..

By the way how is u’r undergrad studies going, i know u’r spot on “RIGHT” — Love to Mom — SF &/or LA, I know everyone misses U!

Sid

January 18th, 2012
12:18 pm

Will Colts hire Spagnuolo? Supposedly Spag spent Monday with the Colts and is with the Saints today.

True Falcon Fan

January 18th, 2012
12:20 pm

Unassuming —- did U even notice 9:31 post —- R U jus dumb or stupid?

RedandBlackPeachy

January 18th, 2012
12:57 pm

@ What’s the cap on new CBA?

January 18th, 2012
12:10 pm
…..can’t AB / TD just pay the lux tax to go over the limit?

NFL has a hard cap. There is no luxury tax like in the NBA. The league office advised the teams last month that the cap won’t change much from the 2011 amount of $120M, if it changes at all. Depending on what you read and believe the Falcons committed dollars ranges from $96M to $100M. The bottom requirement is $108M. Good news, however, is about 25% of the players will become free agents this offseason. With the large amount of free agents, and no increase in cap spending there will be some really good deals for less than players would have commanded in the past. The Falcons are the 6th lowest in committed money out of all of the teams. There are quite a few teams (including the Panthers) who have some real cap spending considerations to make because the are currently close to the cap or already over (some by as much as $10M). Considering how few picks in the draft we have, free agency will be our playground and we might just be all right. In the end, TD may come off looking like the mad (but brilliant) scientist. Time will tell.

[...] The hiring of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator is getting good reviews in Atlanta. [...]

Larry

January 18th, 2012
8:02 pm

Mr. Schultz,

As specifically at trolls like “CHOKE,” perhaps you’ll consider this No Trolling Policy:

“No trolling. Posts intended solely to annoy and/or offend other posters by going against the clear nature of a board or topic are not allowed. This includes, but is not limited to: Provoking other users to respond with flames, Provoking fans of a particular team or group, Making misleading topic titles and asking obviously useless questions.”

Larry

January 18th, 2012
8:04 pm

Correction: “Aimed specifically at trolls like…

yo mama

January 18th, 2012
10:40 pm

folks, Nolan was out of a job. miami fired the entire staff, he was let go. it might be time to say goodbye to abe, unless he decides to retire here, and take a smaller contract. his productivity is down, and he misses qb’s too much. if he would contain the qb, more sack would come, but he dives in too early on qb’s, and they tip toe around him, when if he contained the qb, and trap him, others will collapse from the otherside. thats coaching, looking at tape, and making soild adjustments. friggin van gorder was working on his mustache, when he should have been coaching.

Nolan is a tough cookie, and he was the difference in mIami. there D stopped alot late in the season, and they beat alot of good teams at the end.

tyger

January 19th, 2012
7:45 am

Blah, Blah, Blah….

All the hiring/firing is a mirage –

Nolan or the other guy, won’t put points on the board…

And neither will Matt Ryan – never has, never will…

Until you honestly address that fundamental flaw….

This team is doomed to mediocrity….

Can’t get one play outta my mind…the Hail Mary b4 halftime…

With a 3 step windup, he couldnt get it into the endzone from the 45…

He cant throw the ball 55 yds!!!

High school QBs can throw 55 yds!!!

JSS

January 20th, 2012
4:28 am

True Falcon Fan
January 18th, 2012
12:14 pm
“You still don’t get it!!!”

Don’t let that pot whip your butt kettle…
And when you find Canton (because I don’t live there) find one for yourself like that child murderer did… The River Stixx has plenty of room for you…