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Fox Sports' Alex Marvez is reporting that the Falcons have made yet another seemingly mandatory acquisition of a former Jacksonville Jaguar staffer/player - Devin Bonik, the assistant to Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak, who held the same job in Jacksonville from 2003-'09.
Bonik will become to the assistant to head coach Mike Smith in all things coaching (he's not an administrative assistant) Marvez details the duties thusly:
Bonik aided in coaching staff decisions, personnel evaluation, and coordinated the Titans’ practice schedule and football calendar. Bonik also helped in game preparation by compiling scouting reports and statistical analysis for upcoming opponents.
Bonik joins new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and newly signed guard Vince Manuwai as the latest former Jags turned Falcons. Atlanta also sent former O.C. Mike Mularkey to the Jags as their new head coach, along with quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski.
My, we're talking about the New Orleans Saints a lot today! With Drew Brees' new contract being a little bit more difficult to negotiate than you'd like, we were already set for a pretty enjoyable weekend of NFC South vibes, but this is just too much. Adam Schefter reported, and the NFL has confirmed, that the league has concluded a years-long investigation into the Saints, finding that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was running a bounty system for his players.
This is against the rules, of course, especially since "performance" was often interpreted as "injuring people." The NFL's released a lengthy statement on the matter. Roger Goodell:
"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," Commissioner Goodell said. "The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.
It's alleged that Sean Payton knew but did nothing to stop the program, the operation lasted for three years, and as many as 27 players contributed funds to the pool. More from the NFL:
The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices.
That's bad! Pretty bad stuff, Saints! And for those who would raise a complaint that the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line has also been accused of playing dirty, I'd point out that they're at least doing it for the love of the game and not for bounties, if indeed they are doing it. Not agreeing that they are. Never would. Pleased with 2012.
For more on the Saints, visit Canal Street Chronicles.
Atlanta Falcons news isn't the only locally relevant pro football news of the season. No sir! Let's also continue to keep an eye on the New Orleans Saints, who don't seem to be having the easiest time re-signing their star quarterback*. Like Brent Grimes, Drew Brees doesn't want to be franchised, but it looks like it goes farther than that, according to CBS' Saints beat man, Larry Holder:
My man Larry Holder has this: Saints offered Brees contract that would have made him highest paid player in NFL. Brees rejected it.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) March 2, 2012
Brees will eventually sign a new deal with the Saints. Let's not get our hopes up at all about him leaving the NFC South and getting to face Chase Daniel every year. But you'll kindly permit us to enjoy reports like this one, won't you?
* You cannot deny this is true. The easiest possible re-signing would be Drew Brees offering to accept a new, one-year, veteran's minimum contract every year. He would be unwise to do this, but it would be easy.
For more on Nola, visit Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles.
After an injury plagued 2011 season it appeared that offensive lineman Sam Baker might have played his last game for the Atlanta Falcons. That might not quite be the case after head coach Mike Smith told Pro Football Weekly writer Dan Parr that he would be "Very Comfortable" with Baker at the left tackle position in 2012.
"I thought Sam had his best year (in 2010). This (past) season, unfortunately, he got injured and had to have a procedure done and missed some time. We're looking forward to having Sam back. Sam's very resilient and has fought through a lot of injuries through his first three years."
Baker lost his starting job in 2011 to Will Svitek who is also signed through next season. Baker injured his back early in the season and led to a surgical procedure that sidelined him for four games. Despite that it appears that Baker will get the opportunity to win back his starting position.
For more on the Falcons visit The Falcoholic.
The Falcons are looking to begin negotiations to extend starting quarterback Matt Ryan.
When the Atlanta Falcons acquired defensive end Ray Edwards from free agency for far cheaper than had been expected, it wasn't until training camp that we found out why. Edwards had had knee surgery during the NFL lockout, which likely limited his market value somewhat. But after a disappointing debut season, at least that's all out of the way. Or not!
During his Saturday morning NFL Combine presser, coach Mike Smith revealed Edwards has had another "procedure" this offseason. Smith said that there was a point in the season when Edwards' knee health became an issue, and that he expects his end back in full health. No word on whether it's the same knee, however.
With only 3.5 sacks in his first Atlanta season, Edwards will have to at least double his output to satisfy Falcons fans, who are also preparing for life without John Abraham.
Smith also talked about needing to improve fourth down efficiency on offense, praised Eric Weems and Curtis Lofton, referenced the need to limit Michael Turner's mileage, and presenting a more varied defensive front.
For more on the Falcons, visit The Falcoholic.
Longtime Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Les Snead will leave to take over the St. Louis Rams front office, according to St. Louis, Atlanta and national outlets. Snead has been with Atlanta for 13 years, taking over his current post three years ago. He's advanced from working as a scout to a position just under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, functioning as the director of all scouting, in addition to other roles.
Rams enteringcontract talks w/atlantas les snead to make him teams new gm.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) February 11, 2012
Rams blog Turf Show Times sees some fortunate timing on Snead's part:
Snead's getting out of Atlanta just as the team faces some serious roster decision and cap questions. The Falcons traded away the keys to the castle in last year's draft, moving up to the sixth spot to get Julio Jones. It was supposed to be the move that put them back in contention for the NFC Championship, but they never played up to that level this season.
The Rams picked up two Falcons free agents last year: running back Jerious Norwood and guard Harvey Dahl. The latter was greatly missed in 2011. This has little to do with anything. Thanks for listening.
An offseason that's seen quite a bit of change in the coaching staff now demands a significant replacement in the front office as well.
The St. Louis Rams have restarted their search for their next general manager and have currently interviewed nine candidates for the position. Les Snead, director of player personnel for Atlanta Falcons, is one of them.
The Rams put their GM search on hold for two weeks as the Super Bowl played out. The Rams will continue to interview and decide who will replace the previous general manager, Billy Devaney, in the next week or so.
Matt Ryan succeeded with the Falcons despite the fact that his college resume was not eye-catching. Could new NFC South arrival Greg Schiano do the same with the Bucs?
The Atlanta Falcons are filling out their coaching staff, with the latest addition coming from the West coast. The recently fired Fresno St. Bulldogs head coach Pat Hill has been named the new offensive line coach for the Falcons. Hill is taking over for Paul Boudreau, who was fired after the Falcons were defeated 24-2 in the playoffs by the New York Giants.
The Atlanta Falcons have reportedly filled their vacant secondary coaching position with former Miami defensive backs coach Joe Danna. His name may sound familiar because he was a defensive assistant in Atlanta for two seasons from 2008-2009.
Danna spent last season defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins under new Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The name might be lacking the wow factor, but Danna brings experience in working with Nolan to the Falcons.
Danna also has ties to the state of Georgia having served as a graduate assistant at the University of Georgia and as the defensive backs coach at Georgia Southern for two seasons. He joined the Falcons coaching staff in 2008 and signed on with the Dolphins in February of 2010. Danna also has coaching stops at Central Michigan and James Madison on his resume.
The Falcons quarterback is just one or two years away from doing some big things, based on the numbers put up by his peers.
Monday, the Atlanta Falcons announced defensive backs coach Alvin Reynolds has been let go. This makes three position coaches the Falcons will need to replace this offseason, with offensive linemen and quarterbacks also currently coachless.
Reynolds was with the Falcons since 2008, coming aboard along with Mike Smith and Brian VanGorder. With new DC Mike Nolan taking over, it's natural to expect at least one position to change hands, and there's no guarantee this will be the only switch.
The Falcons ranked in the lower half of the NFL in passing yards allowed every season from 2008 through 2011. Here's a look at the resume that led to Reynolds' Falcons hire:
- 2003-2007 -- Defensive Backs Coach // Jacksonville Jaguars
- 1999-2002 -- Defensive Assistant // Carolina Panthers
- 1996-1998 -- Secondary Coach // Baltimore Ravens
- 1993-1995 -- Defensive Assistant // Denver Broncos
- 1990-1992 -- Assist. Head Coach/Secondary Coach // Indiana State Univ.
- 1983-1989 -- Secondary Coach // Indiana State University
- 1982 -- Graduate Assistant // Indiana State University
ESPN's Chris Mortenson is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons are courting former Jacksonville offensive line coach Andy Heck. The Dolphins and possibly the Rams have also been rumored to be interested in Heck.
2011 was Heck's 20th season in the NFL including 12 years as a player and eight as a coach. Heck spent the other eight years as a coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars joining the staff in 2004 as an offensive assistant/assistant offensive line coach. Heck was promoted to line coach in 2006 and has served in that position for the last six seasons. He was not retained by former Falcons coach Mike Mularkey when he took over the head coaches position in Jacksonville.
Current Kansas City Chiefs and former Atlanta Falcons Director of College Scouting Phil Emery is viewed as the leading candidate to assume the vacant GM position for the Chicago Bears, according to multiple reports.
Emery worked for six seasons in Atlanta, the first five as the Director of College Scouting. Upon the arrival of GM Thomas Dimitroff, Emery was re-assigned as a regional scout for one year, before being named the Director of College Scouting for the Chiefs under Scott Pioli.
The opening in Chicago was created when longtime GM Jerry Angelo was fired shortly after the conclusion of Chicago's 8-8 season. The Bears faced a rash of injuries in the season's second half, including ailments to QB Jay Cutler and star RB Matt Forte that landed them on injured reserve.
Emery is one of five reported candidates who have been interviewed for the position, and it is believed that a decision will be made in the near future, with Emery seen as the favorite to land the job.
The Minnesota Vikings have plucked Jose Valdez, a promising practice squad offensive lineman, from the Atlanta Falcons and signed him to a future contract, according to Yahoo! Sports' Gil Alcaraz IV. Valdez, went undrafted in 2009 and signed with Atlanta as a college free agent. He has yet crack the active roster but has spent the last three seasons on the practice squad and showed promise in the preseason.
Although Valdez played tackle in college, he is better suited as a guard prospect for the Vikings. His lack of foot speed and elite pass blocking make him a lackluster candidate for either offensive tackle spot. Despite his deficiencies, he does boast capable run blocking and nice pass blocking technique. Valdez lacks great upside, but has some potential as a backup.
Valdez will be on the Vikings' active roster when OTA's begin in March. As for the Falcons, they lose out on having a talented prospect that adds depth to the offensive line, but Dave Choate of The Falcoholic believes the Vikings may make better use of Valdez.
If Garrett Reynolds moves back to OT and Sam Baker is retained, the Falcons could make a go of it, though it's hardly ideal. I always hate to lose players the Falcons have been grooming, but it's telling that Valdez never made an impact during his time in Atlanta. The Vikings will probably find better use for Valdez as a guard, frankly.
New Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan brings talent and experience to a defense that can only be counted as average these last four seasons under Brian Van Gorder. But can Nolan turn the Falcons from good to great? His scheme may mesh with this team more than you think.
What do we really know about coaches? How much of an impact can new Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter really have?
Mike Nolan's career as a defensive mind in the NFL has largely been defined by his preferred scheme - the 3-4 alignment - but the new Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator stated the team will remain in its 4-3 scheme during a teleconference to announce Nolan on Wednesday.
Here's a few highlights from the official Atlanta Falcons Twitter account (Full audio will be available Wednesday afternoon at the Falcons official site):
Nolan and Smitty watched some film the other day and Smitty asked Nolan what he saw. Nolan sees a team that's built for 4-3.— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) January 18, 2012
Nolan: We're not trying to move this defense toward a 3-4. We're trying to make the current 11 guys better the best we can.— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) January 18, 2012
Nolan: I'd rather have 10 guys get four sacks than have four get 10 each.— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) January 18, 2012
Nolan stressed throughout the call that he wanted to work with a system that was the best fit for the players on the roster, which he stressed was a 4-3. Could that mean the Falcons plan on re-signing one or both of their free agent defensive ends, John Abraham and Kroy Biermann?
The hiring of Mike Nolan by the Atlanta Falcons has made many fans happy, especially in Atlanta, and it's made a lot of fans extremely unhappy, especially in Miami. Nolan coached the Dolphins defense to a No. 6 ranking in 2010 and a No. 15 ranking in 2011. The Falcons, who lost their defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to Auburn, got a proven coach.
Falcons fans seem to be satisfied with the hire. The Falcoholic's Dave Choate wrote on Wednesday that he was "thrilled" with the hire.
I like this move on more than one level. The Falcons talked about making changes, and simply hiring Nolan ensures the defense will have a vastly different look and feel in 2012. Nolan has an established track record of improving defenses and has a knack for getting huge effort and production out of the players he coaches. He'll also fit in with the current coaching staff nicely, having worked with Smitty in Baltimore and being the kind of intelligent, quiet guy this franchise favors. Above all, he's just a damn good coordinator.
Many NFL writers share Choate's views. The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley believes that it was a great move as well.
As for Nolan: He was one of the two hottest DCs on the market, Steve Spagnuolo being the other. Nolan could have had his pick of jobs. He picked this one. That’s another good sign, and one very productive day.
And this from ESPN's Pat Yasinkas:
I think it’s fair to say Nolan is an upgrade over former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who left to become defensive coordinator at Auburn. Through most of Smith’s tenure, VanGorder’s defenses weren’t great, although the Falcons improved somewhat on that side of the ball in 2011.
Not everybody is happy, though, especially Dolphins fans. James Walker, ESPN's AFC East blogger, believes that it was a big loss for the Dolphins.
I think this is a big loss for the Dolphins. Nolan may have been the best coach on Miami's staff this past season. Miami's defense was very tough against the run and came on strong late in the year. Nolan's success was one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins were competitive in the second half of the season.
And some members of The Phinsider, SB Nation's Dolphins blog, would agree with Walker..... in different words.
From user Sharkz-n-Phinz:
Where's the damn unlike button....
I hate this. I really liked Nolan. Hopefully this will push us to a 4-3 now with our next DC.
And from FinHead83:
People shouldn't be so surprised.
I know many wanted Nolan to return as DC, but really, everyone knew it was unlikely he’d come back with a new regime change. It just hardly ever works out that way. It sucks to realize he’s gone, but we knew he was most likely gone the day Sparano was fired. Nolan is exactly what Atlanta needs and it’ll be interesting to watch their defense grow under Nolan, especially since they’ll most likely convert to a base 3-4 defense. Good luck Mike Nolan. You were one of the few, if not the only, well liked coach in Miami for the past several years. At least it’s nice to see a coach go on good terms…
The Atlanta Falcons announced on Tuesday that former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan has been hired as the team's new defensive coordinator. Following the announcement, Jay Adams of the official Falcons website relayed some comments from head coach Mike Smith:
"Mike Nolan is an established coordinator in this league," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. "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 comes to the team having spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, where he oversaw a top-10 NFL defense.
The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday that they've got a new defensive coordinator: former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan. This was somewhat expected, as the hunt had appeared to come down to either Nolan or former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who's also reportedly being targeted by the Saints and Eagles.
Nolan is best known as the guy who got the NFL to let him wear suits on the sidelines while coaching the Niners. Well, maybe not really, but he is that guy. He also coached the Baltimore Ravens defense from 2002 through 2004, but he's kind of bounced around a lot.
He was heralded in 2009 as the Broncos DC, but was let go by Josh McDaniel and took over the Dolphins defense. He's also coached the Jets, Redskins and Giants defenses, never really staying at any one gig for a lengthy period of time.
We'll look deeper into his background shortly, including the question of whether the Falcons may attempt a shift at some point to a 3-4 system, but there's the hire.
The Atlanta Falcons offensive coaching staff will need to replace quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski in addition to onboarding new coordinator Dirk Koetter. That maligned offensive line will also come under new direction, with the team announcing the exit of line coach Paul Boudreau Tuesday.
"We would like to thank Coach Boudreau for his contributions to our team over the past four seasons, and we wish him well in his future endeavors," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith in a statement.
Boudreau was one of Smith's original Atlanta hires when he came aboard in 2008. The line had great success early on as Michael Turner broke franchise records, but had trouble in 2011 -- without key piece Harvey Dahl and with another Sam Baker injury -- at providing Matt Ryan time to operate. Turner still put up yards, but nobody really knows quite where they came from this time around. They just sort of showed up at the end of the year.
His replacement will likely be a coach well-versed in blocking for counters, screens and traps, along with a solid background in building protections for shotgun sets.
Dirk Koetter, formerly of the Jaguars, has been formally announced as the new offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, and after the failures of Mike Mularkey's bland-o-rific offense fans are anxious to see how Koetter will change an offense littered with weapons. Relatively speaking, we should be thrilled.
New Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter made his first local impression Monday morning, dazzling with talk of next-generation weaponry like screen passes, downfield throws and no-huddle attacks. We have no idea what he's talking about, but assume it's all some sort of fancy dive play.
He said he's excited about working with Matt Ryan and watching film from every 2011 Falcons game. He talked about balance and developing schemes that match personnel strengths, but the quote that's going to jump out is the one about Mike Smith specifically requesting Koetter bring Atlanta's screen passing game up to snuff.
If you're just now joining us, you wouldn't believe how much time Falcons fans spend complaining about how useless this team has been at screen passes. With Alabama screen master Julio Jones outside, the Falcons should be able to count at least a couple of screens among their base plays. But, as Pat Yasinkas dutifully chronicled, the Birds were perhaps the league's worst screen team.
Koetter's said before that he prefers taking shots downfield over high-percentage short stuff, but the thing about Jones, Harry Douglas, Jacquizz Rodgers and even Roddy White is that short plays could become big plays if drawn up right.
Too often under the previous regime, explosive Falcons receivers got the ball at a standstill, unable to develop any momentum before defenders arrived. While Tony Gonzalez seems to work better when he's able to pivot and assess before making something of a reception, most receivers should be able to catch the ball in spots where they're ready to move and add yards after the catch, especially if it's close to the line of scrimmage. That could be something to hope for next year.
The Atlanta Falcons are 1-5 in their last six meetings against the New Orleans Saints, and they're about to have a seventh go in the offseason, according to multiple reports that former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is the leading candidate for defensive coordinator in both cities.
Spagnulo was thought to be a high-priority target for the Philadelphia Eagles, but not so, says Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. His report that Andy Reid isn't in much of a rush to address the Eagles' issues on defense (he's been on vacation, which always goes over well with fans!) mentioned that Atlanta and New Orleans are the two strongest suitors for Spags, and either would be a better fit:
It's easy to see why those might be more attractive opportunities. For one thing, going back to a former team as an assistant after flopping as a head coach is less than exciting and new; why not start fresh? For another, you have to figure what Spagnuolo really wants here is to maximize his chances of being a head coach again. New Orleans and Atlanta were playoff teams this season that are good bets to be back in the postseason next year. That's the kind of visibility that gets you back into the head-coaching discussion.
Bowen goes on to use the example of current Giants defensive coordinator (Spagnuolo's old job) Perry Fewell, who went from goat to a potential head coaching candidate by virtue of New York's two playoff wins against Atlanta and Green Bay. Falcons fans would likely be eager to trade a here-then-gone coordinator if it means Atlanta has some hardware to show for it.
Koetter marks the first new hire of the Falcons' offseason, after having lost three assistants following their 24-2 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card game. Koetter, the former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator, will replace Mike Mularkey, who left Atlanta to become the new head coach of the Jags.
The Falcons will need to sell the sizzle Monday, as the move isn't one with instant excitement attached to it: Mularkey became the goat among most fans for the Falcons' inability to develop a deep passing game and create quick-scoring "explosive" plays. Koetter's Jacksonville offense was near last in the league this season in almost every category. But Koetter will inherit a loaded offense that needs only a few tweaks on the line, not a reclamation project. He also has a history of championing vertical passing route, something The Falcoholic examined to make their judgement on his potential success:
If [Koetter's] as aggressive for the Falcons as he says he likes to be, the team should be able to squeeze a better performance out of its offense in 2012, and everyone will forget how hysterically angry they were yesterday. If he doesn't...yikes.
The Atlanta Falcons have confirmed an earlier report by officially announcing Dirk Koetter as the team's new offensive coordinator. Koetter has served as the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2007.
Former Jags OC Dirk Koetter has agreed to become the new Falcons offensive coordinator.— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) January 15, 2012
Koetter oversaw one of the NFL's worst offensive teams in the Jaguars this season but admittedly didn't have a lot to work with. Former Jaguars quarterback David Garrard had the two best seasons of his career under Koetter.
Koetter had been sought after this offseason by Kansas for its then vacant head coaching position and Alabama for its offensive coordinator position. He brings experience from coaching stints with Arizona State and Boise State to the Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons have hired former Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as their new play-caller, replacing M… say.ly/eDI1gMS— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 15, 2012
Koetter has served as Jaguar's offensive coordinator since 2007 and was mentioned for a number of job openings the season. Jacksonville had one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season but didn't have a lot of weapons other than running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Other names rumored to be involved in the Falcons offensive coordinator search were former Jets coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. Koetter had also been rumored to have received interest from Kansas in their head coaching search and from Alabama for its offensive coordinator position.
If the Falcons really do have interest in Brian Schottenheimer to fill their vacant offensive coordinator post, they might want to move fast on an interview - the former New York Jets' play caller is apparently drawing lot of interest from newly-hired St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, in addition to already having interviewed with the University of Alabama on Saturday.
Schottenheimer's name was part of a list NFL.com's Jason La Canfora confirmed earlier this week as potential targets from the Falcons organization. According to La Canfora, the Falcons have officially requested to speak with only two candidates, former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.
Is there also a potential for a family renunion in Florida? If so, it could pit Schottenheimer against Atlanta twice a year - his father Marty has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Raheem Morris as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shot down the idea of a father-son coaching combo:
Marty Schottenheimer is a candidate for the head-coaching job in Tampa Bay, but indications are that Brian wants to cast his own lot in the NFL rather than joining his father if Marty gets the Bucs' job.
NFL.com's Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons have put in official requests to interview now-former Jacksonville Jaguars coordinator Dirk Koetter and Green Bay Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements to replace Mike Mularkey as the team's offensive coordinator.
Koetter had been the Jaguar's offensive coordinator since 2007, and has been mentioned for a variety of job openings this year, including the head coaching job at the University of Kansas, the offensive coordinator job at Alabama, and even the now-filled job at Hawaii.
Jacksonville produced one of the worst statistical offenses in the NFL this season, but SB Nation blog Big Cat Country didn't put that on Koetter in an early-December post regarding his future:
He's in the last year of his contract with the Jaguars and with the amount of changes the team has made in the last week and the emphasis they've made on production it doesn't seem like it would make much sense to re-sign the coordinator of the league's worst unit.
Koetter has had a very difficult job this season trying to make a successful offense without very much offensive talent. With a rookie quarterback, terrible wide receivers and subpar pass blocking as of late, ultimately, he's been unable to do anything but rack up yardage for Maurice Jones-Drew.
Clements has been the quarterbacks coach with the Packers since 2006, and has spent most of the past month being named as a top candidate for the now-filled Penn State head coach opening. Before joining the Packers' staff, Clements was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo for two seasons (2004-'05).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons' top two choices to replaced departed defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder are former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and current Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator and former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan.
Spagnuolo's name was among the first to emerge as a potential candidate.
Despite his struggles as a head coach in St. Louis. Spagnuolo is high demand for his services as a coordinator, most notably in Philadelphia, where his former employer Andy Reid is looking to possibly replace Juan Castillo, who might be taking the same job in Minnesota. Spanuolo is best known for his New York Giants defensive unit that shut down the undefeated New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl - specifically with a pass rush (five sacks of Tom Brady in that game) that the Falcons sorely lack.
Nolan is a proponent of the 3-4 system, and despite many connections throughout the NFL (including coaching the defense in Baltimore for Brian Billick, who is rumored to be a potential offensive coordinator candidate for Atlanta) gained success under former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves, who took Nolan with him from the Denver Broncos to the New York Giants in 1993, starting Nolan's career.
Jacksonville Jaguars interim head coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will stay with the franchise under new head coach Mike Mularkey, as announced last night. Tucker, who had interviewed for the Jags' head coaching job, had spoken to the Minnesota VIkings about their opening at defensive coordinator (despite having not officially fired Fred Pagnac), but announced he would return to Jacksonville in 2012.
Tucker had never officially spoken to the Atlanta Falcons about their defensive coordinator opening, but he was considered among the candidates to replace Brian VanGorder, who left the Atlanta franchise on Monday to become defensive coordinator at Auburn.
Falcons fans might remember Tucker as the man across the sidelines during Atlanta's 41-14 dismantling of the Jags on Thursday Night Football in December, but that team's performance was more of a fait accompli after former head coach Jack Del Rio was let go, and despite that blowout, Tucker's defense finished ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense, eighth in rushing and ninth in passing.
For more information on the Atlanta Falcons, visit The Falcoholic. For more info on the Jacksonville Jaguars, go to Big Cat Country. For news and notes from around the NFL, go to SB Nation's NFL page.
According to a report by Adam Schefter, Falcons quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski will be hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the team's offensive coordinator reuniting him with new Jags head coach Mike Mularkey.
Jacksonville plans to hire former Falcons QB coach Bob Bratkowski as its offensive coordinator, reuniting him with HC Mike Mularkey.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2012
Bratkowski had been rumored as a possible replacement as offensive coordinator for Mularkey in Atlanta. If this report is true then the Falcons will not fill the offensive coordinator position internally. Instead they will focus on someone outside the organization where some big names have already emerged as candidates. The move would also mean that Matt Ryan will be working with his third different quarterbacks coach since joining the league during the 2008 season.
JasonLaCanfora Jason La CanforaI expect Falcons to make overtures to Mel Tucker in their defensive coordinator search. Jags and Vikes interested in Tucker
Tucker, a 40-year old who got his start in the college ranks, has been the Jaguars defensive coordinator for the last three seasons.
In 2011, Jacksonville ranked 8th in passing yardage allowed and 9th in rushing yardage allowed under Tucker.
He took over as the interim head coach when the Jaguars fired Jack Del Rio towards the end of last season and interviewed for the full-time job before Jacksonville hired former Atlanta Falcons OC Mike Mularkey instead.
Mularkey is reportedly interested in keeping the in-demand Tucker, who also interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings DC position last week.
With embattled Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the process for replacing him has gone into overdrive, as a list of the candidates who will interview for the job has emerged:
JasonLaCanfora Jason La CanforaCandidates for Falcons OC job include Dirk Koetter, Brian Billick, Tom Clements and Brian Schottenheimer. Interviews start soon
Billick, the brother-in-law of Falcons coach Mike Smith, is currently an NFL analyst for FOX, but he became famous as the offensive guru behind the 1999 Minnesota Vikings before becoming the Baltimore Ravens head coach for most of the last decade.
Koetter, the Jaguars OC, and Schottenheimer, the son of NFL coaching legend Marty and former Jets OC, are both candidates for the Alabama OC position as well.
Did Joe Theismann just accidentally tip the Atlanta Falcons' hand in hiring a new offensive coordinator?
Joe Theisman might have just slipped! He SAID:"Brian Schottenheimer...so much more to work with in Matt Ryan as off coord for the Falcons"— Sandra Golden (@sportsandra) January 12, 2012
The legendary quarterback and analyst appeared on 680 AM The Fan's "Rude Awakening" morning show in Atlanta Thursday morning, and in talking about Brian Schottenheimer's situation with the New York Jets - the offensive coordinator's now-previous employer - and the struggles of quarterback Mark Sanchez, he veered off and began discussing Schottenheimer's skill set being better suited for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan: (transcription courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"[Brian] felt like he was saddled and limited by what Mark Sanchez can do in New York," Theismann said. "Mark is really not that good. He’s a hard-working kid. He wants to be good. But he doesn’t understand the game of football the way Matt does.
"You have to play the position with the knowledge of where you are on the field, what the score is in the game. What [you] can do. What [you] can’t do. What are the things that are required of me. Really, the only route that Mark throws effectively is the quick post. He’s going to have a whole lot more to work with, with Matt Ryan."
They asked him to clarify his comments.
"I’ve [unaudible] Brian was going to be the offensive coordinator."
Now that's weird, certainly, but it could just be that Theismann confused his phrasing when discussing the POTENTIAL of Schottenheimer coaching Ryan, the quarterback of the franchise in the city in which Theisman was currently being interviewed. Or some of those tightly guarded state secrets of Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff were just leaked in a wonderful brain fart.
The Falcons do not have the personnel to run a 3-4, they don't have the draft picks or cap room to make the transition, and they would annoy a good portion of their fan base by hiring away Georgia's defensive coordinator. Other than that, the move would've made perfect sense.
Rest easy, state of Georgia. Less than a day after rumors began that Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could be a candidate for the same job with the Atlanta Falcons, the UGA coach has issued a statement via the school on the state of his deal with the Dawgs. Awkward internal civil wars may now be avoided.
This time of year there are a lot of rumors involving coaching openings. Because of the terrific recruiting class we are assembling and the juniors that have communicated to me their desire to come back to Georgia I felt it important to address some of these current and any future rumors. I've had discussions with Coach Richt and (AD) Greg McGarity and we are on track to finalizing details on a contract extension. My family enjoys Athens very much. I love the passion and excitement of our fans. We have the program headed in the right direction and I want to be a part of bringing Georgia a championship. My desire is to be at UGA for a very long time. Go Dawgs!
The Atlanta Falcons held a state of the franchise press conference Wednesday, commenting on the disappointment that was the conclusion of their 2011 season. Arthur Blank spoke first, expressing great disappointment at the way the year ended. He also said he trusts Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith to address what needs to be addressed.
Blank also confirmed the exit of offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Smith said there's no time frame for replacing Mularkey and former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, but said it would be done "sooner rather than later." In response to a question, Blank called the search for new coordinators "a private matter." (Some objected to this, strangely.) Blank said he expects the new coordinators to be "cold-hearted and unemotional" on roster matters.
Smith reiterated that the team's goals are higher than just reaching the playoffs consistently, no matter how rare postseason trips were before the current regime arrived. Blank described his mood as "angry" about the team's performance.
Regarding free agency, Dimitroff said only about eight of the team's 17 are likely to be resigned. As far as incoming free agents, Dimitroff said he'd prefer new players who have "positive playoff experience."
The team's inconsistency was repeatedly decried, with Smith at one point saying the team met its goal of becoming more explosive offensively, but failed to make much of all the explosions. Both Smith and Blank defended the trade for Julio Jones; Dimitroff added that the Jones deal was just part of the quest, listing better tackling and fundamentals as additional areas in need of addressing.
Dimitroff said the entire roster is being analyzed as free agency approaches, at one point turning to Blank for help remembering the expression, "there are no sacred cows." He also said the team's chemistry wasn't "in sync" this year, noting a lack of passion at times. Blank cautioned against bringing on talented free agents for the sake of bringing on talented free agents, dipping into references of bodies rejecting grafted organs.
When Dimitroff said the team needs to be more opportunistic, citing missed tackles and missed interceptions, Blank added, "or a missed block or two." It's not all the defense's fault, not by any means.
Smith named Sean Weatherspoon, Matt Ryan, Eric Weems and Matt Bosher his team MVPs, adding about the rookie punter, "we were all getting ready to run this guy out of town" before his outstanding latter portion of the season. So there are four guys who probably aren't being cut any time soon. Smith also called kicker Matt Bryant "Mr. Consistency."
Regarding Michael Turner, Smith said his number of touches will need to be evaluated in the future, but added that he felt Turner was "effective" and "solid" for most of the season.
Enter Steve Spagnuolo: The recently ousted St. Louis Rams head coach and defensive coordinator of the 2008 World Champion New York Giants is on the Atlanta Falcons' radar to replace Brian VanGorder, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen:
Spagnuolo's name is considered to be the hottest of available defensive coordinators, and is most often mentioned to replaced the Philadelphia Eagles' Juan Castillo on Andy Reid's staff, reuniting him with his former boss. Spagnuolo has also considered taking a year off from coaching, according to one report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Like VanGorder, Spagnuolo employs a traditional 4-3 scheme, which the Falcons already run and have personnel fit for.
The Atlanta Falcons announced late Tuesday that owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith would speak to the media as part of a season-in-review press conference Wednesday at Noon ET. The press conference can viewed live at the Falcons' official site.
Among the topics likely to be discussed?
Sources tell me the Falcons have reached out to the agent of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. bit.ly/sbcB2K— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) January 11, 2012
If the report is true, Grantham's agent, Michael Harris, couldn't be happier - Georgia is in the midst of negotiating a new contract for Grantham, and the interest from the Falcons would only drive Grantham's price even higher. Since arriving in Athens, the longtime NFL coordinator has turned the Bulldogs into a monster on defense: UGA ranked 3rd nationally in total defense this season (seventh in pass defense and ninth in rush defense). They also finished second in the SEC in sacks (34), tackles for loss (94) and turnovers forced (29).
Before joining the Bulldogs, Grantham worked for four NFL teams - Indianapolis, Houston, Cleveland and Dallas, the latter two as a coordinator. Grantham employs a 3-4 scheme, whereas the current Falcons have run a 4-3.
If you polled Atlanta Falcons fans (and maybe even players) on the No. 1 change the team needs to make in the offseason, I'm confident that hiring a new offensive coordinator would be the top result. For what it's worth, it appears Falcons fans are about to get their wish.
We'd known for a while now that OC Mike Mularkey had an interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars scheduled for this week. According to one report by Florida Times-Union Jags beat writer Tania Ganguli, everything went well, and Mularkey has accepted the job.
Mularkey would become the third head coach in Jags history, succeeding Jack Del Rio and Tom Coughlin. He did have a winning season in his two years as Bills coach (2004, 2005), and may actually be a better head coach than coordinator.
He's been praised for helping Matt Ryan develop into a fine young quarterback, but seeing the talented Falcons offense get shut out in a playoff game was likely the last straw for any Falcons fan still on the fence.
(Interesting to note Del Rio is considered a candidate to replace Brian VanGorder as Atlanta's defensive coordinator. The old switcheroo.)
Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is scheduled to interview Tuesday for the Jaguars head coaching job. -- @AdamSchefter
Previously, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder decided to vacate his position in the pros to go back to the SEC and take the same position with the Auburn Tigers. Now the offensive coordinator could be leaving the nest as well, and for some (the players) a move like this could be viewed as "addition by subtraction" for the future of the team.
The Falcons offense has received backlash for its inability to convert on 4th and 1 throughout the season, and some of the blame was placed squarely on Mularkey's play-calling ability. Even with those failures, Mularkey helped Matt Ryan become a Pro Bowl quarterback in just three years and the Jaguars could look to see the same turnaround with their rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert for the future.
Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is headed back to the SEC, venturing to coach for the Auburn Tigers. While many expected the Falcons to need to make staff changes this offseason, few expected them to come about like this.
Thinking more about it, I'm still not sure whether I think VanGorder went looking for the Auburn job or was told by the Falcons to find employment elsewhere. That gig was vacant for a long time, with few rumors coming out once the Mark Stoops thing didn't happen, and that was weeks ago. He nearly left the Falcons for the South Carolina job a couple years ago, too.
But whether the Birds planned on it or not, they need a new defensive coordinator. The first name to pop up was former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio -- once a linebackers coach alongside defensive line coach Smith with the Baltimore Ravens. Del Rio was fired this year by the Jags, but was reportedly a Chiefs target at one point.
Among Georgia Bulldogs fans, the news has been greeted with one concern: OMG TODD GRANTHAM, basically. While it's doubtful the Falcons would want to spend a year transitioning to a 3-4 scheme (not to mention irritate the large college-first portion of the fan base), it's widely assumed he'll want to head back to the NFL at some point. Good for his current contract negotiations, at least.
Recently fired St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is also a hot name among fans. He coached the New York Giants defense to a Super Bowl win at his previous stop, and is perhaps the top candidate on the market.
No real rumors to work with at this point, but those would likely be the three names to come up the quickest in conversation about the search.
The Atlanta Falcons offense was shut out against the New York Giants on Sunday, the third postseason collapse of the otherwise successful Thomas Dimitroff era. While defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has already provided Mike Smith and company with work in finding one new coordinator, it's looking more and more likely the Birds will need a new coach on the other side of the ball as well.
Mike Mularkey, who's interviewing with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, certainly appears to have worn out his welcome in Atlanta -- and not just among fans, based on reporting by Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, which features Roddy White expressing frustration and some anonymous comments:
White's remarks echo private comments of several other players who have pointed at a disconnection who offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's approach. Numerous players believe Mularkey is too conservative, particularly in tense situations like the playoffs.
Or as one player put it: "Something has to be said to [coach] Mike [Smith] this offseason."
In a release, the Auburn Tigers announced their shocking acquisition of Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator, formerly of the Georgia Bulldogs. VanGorder coached the Falcons for four seasons, producing the most consistent run of non-embarrassing defense in franchise history.
VanGorder on the move out west:
"This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family at this point in my career, both professionally and personally, to become the defensive coordinator at Auburn," VanGorder said. "I'm looking forward to working at a school with the success and tradition of Auburn, and for a coach like Gene Chizik, who has led the program to a national championship. I'm very appreciative to the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Mike Smith for the experience of the last four years. It's a great organization and will have continued success in the future."
And a comment by Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who may be slightly more or far less popular throughout Georgia moving forward, depending on your views on many things (it's complicated). UGA fans are grossed out, while it's mixed reactions all around for Falcons fans. Oh, right, Chizik:
"I'm very excited to have a coach like Brian VanGorder join our staff at Auburn. From the beginning of this process, I had one person in mind, and that was Brian," Chizik said. "He has achieved success at every level, both professionally and collegiately, which is a testament to his ability as a coach. He has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, has won a Broyles Award at the college level, and understands what it takes to succeed in the Southeastern Conference. We're pleased to welcome Brian and his family to Auburn."
After a second consecutive disappointing showing in the playoffs, the shake-ups on the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff have already begun, with Mike Smith announcing Monday that defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is moving back to the college ranks and taking the newly open DC job at Auburn:
Smitty starts presser announcing that Brian VanGorder has accepted the DC job at Auburn University.
VanGorder came to the Falcons in 2007 as a linebackers coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008.
Atlanta's defense was rated 20th in the NFL against the pass and 6th against the run, giving up an average of 22 points a game this season.
The 52-year old coach has extensive experience in the college game, having served as the defensive coordinator at Georgia from 2001-2004, where he won the Frank Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant coach in 2002.
Smith gave no indication as to what direction he'd like to go in replacing VanGorder.
With their 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants, Falcons' season is over. Both Mike Smith and Matt Ryan, now 0-3 in the playoffs, will look to head back to the drawing board and determine how to improve into 2012 and beyond. But as far as the 2011 Falcons go, a closer look reveals that playoff failure was an inevitability.
After a third playoff disappointment, it is time for the Falcons to go in a different direction on offense. Two points against the Giants brings into full view the weakness of this team.
* - "Mike Mularkey out," for those of you who aren't experts in soccer chants.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave a state-of-the-franchise type exit interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following Sunday's implosion loss to the Giants, and while - as expected - he didn't promise changes would be made to his coaching staff outright, his quote does convey that change could be coming:
Q: Do you feel you have the right people in the key positions to lead this team?
A: I think we have the right people in position because I think what they will do is challenge themselves and ask all of the right questions. They would be the wrong people if they said, ‘we tried hard, we didn’t execute and we’ll get better next year.’ I don’t think that’s an answer. The answer is that we’re going to evaluate the team, the players, the coaches and why we didn’t perform in the personnel area and why we didn’t perform at the level that we’re capable of. The beauty of Smitty and Thomas is that they will do that. It’s not their nature to be defensive. They are thoughtful and bright and care about the franchise and winning. They will do what I would want them to do, which is be objective and go through a thorough analysis and not be emotional about it.
While his fourth down decision making will be crucified in tandem with his failed overtime call against the Saints in the regular season, it doesn't seem like Mike Smith is in any serious trouble. The focus in the coming days and weeks will be on both coordinators - O.C. Mike Mularkey, a candidate for several open head coaching jobs before Sunday, and D.C. Brian VanGorder.
CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson is reporting that Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, rumored to be a top candidate for the open Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching job, is drawing some attention in Kansas City for their vacancy as well.
Buried in a story about the surprise interview of former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio in Kansas City is a small but interesting note:
Kansas City has also interviewed Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin are are reportedly interested in speaking with Falcons' OC Mike Mularkey.
That's the first time Mularkey has been mentioned among the many, many names being tossed around in Kansas City, where aside from interim head coach Romeo Crennel, a variety of potential names have been tossed around, unlike Jacksonville, where Mularkey seems to be the top candidate.
If Atlanta wins its playoff game at New York Sunday, league rules dictate that they can control the time and location of any potential interviews with interested parties and Mularkey.
Same story as last year. Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who had lined up as many as three NFL head coaching interviews last season before having to trim his plans due to Atlanta's playoffs run, has a pair already set for this year, according to reports. The latest: a meeting with the Miami Dolphins, who, according to NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, have received permission.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also firing head coach Raheem Morris, kind of want to see if Mularkey can pull off an interview with every Florida team. (The Bucs were interested at some point, according to one report.) The Florida Gators need an offensive coordinator, too. All-time play caller, perhaps?
Hidden in a report by the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs regarding the Bears' open offensive coordinator job and a list of potential replacements for Mike Martz is an item with potentially huge ramifications for the Falcons and Jaguars:
Colts offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, if let go, could be a strong candidate for the position based on his previous experience with Smith for the Buccaneers. But an NFL source said if Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey lands a head coaching job (the Jaguars and Bucs are interested in him) Christensen will go with him. The source said Mularkey will be the leading candidate in Jacksonville.
The Jags have officially requested to speak with Mularkey, along with other rumored candidates including Jay Gruden (brother of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden), who is thought to be the early favorite for the job.
The 2012 NFL Draft won't matter much to the Atlanta Falcons, who traded the house for Julio Jones last April, but the Cleveland Browns will be watching the NFC Playoffs closely.
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