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.