The Falcons released Mike Smith from his contract on Monday after seven years at the helm in Atlanta. They've already contacted seven candidates for an interview. Team owner Arthur Blank said it was less important if the prospective coach was offensive- or defensive-minded. He wants someone that can represent the Falcons' brand, is a player's coach and listed the following traits: Leader, motivator, creative, flexible, adaptive and someone with the ability "to see around corners."
Detroit Lions Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin
Teryl Austin was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2010, spent three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens coaching the secondary, and last year took over as defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. He's a creative play caller, and has helped turn the Detroit run defense into the best in the NFL. The Lions allowed just 69.3 rushing yards per game in 2014, and were third in the NFL with just 17.6 points per game. Austin will interview with the Falcons sometime next week, after Detroit's playoff game on Sunday.
The Falcons put an interview request in for Todd Bowles on Monday, but won't be able to speak with him until next week at the earliest, as the Cardinals have a playoff game on Saturday against the Panthers. Even with injuries abound, Arizona's defense finished fifth in the league, allowing just 18.7 points per game. Bowles is an aggressive play caller with a knack at applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
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Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase
Adam Gase is scheduled to interview with the Falcons this weekend as the Broncos have a first-round bye. Gase has been with Denver since 2009, and has been the offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. He's an aerial specialist that thrives in creating mismatches that become apparent from film study. He also adapted Denver's offense -- quite nicely -- this season from heavy pass to a strong running force. Gase's success is tied, rightfully so, to his quarterback Peyton Manning. But there was genius prior to being paired with Manning, and he's only gotten smarter since.
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Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn
Because the Seahawks don't play in the first round of the playoffs, Dan Quinn is able to interview with teams. He'll meet with the Falcons on Saturday. He was the defensive coordinator with the Florida Gators from 2011-2012, and then has been at the helm of Seattle's defense for the last two seasons. The Seahawks have boasted the league's best defense during Quinn's entire tenure (also the year prior), and have shown unheralded success at developing young players no matter what round they were drafted.
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New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels has worked as the offensive coordinator in New England for the past three seasons, after two less-than-stellar seasons as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. He'll forever have a black eye for his over-valuation of quarterback Tim Tebow, and he'll need to convince the Falcons he's grown as a coach since rejoining Bill Belichick and the Patriots. McDaniels has ties with the current regime in Atlanta. He was with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff from 2002-2007 in New England, and with assistant general manager Scott Pioli from 2001-2008.
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Former New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan has agreed to an interview with the Falcons, but no date has been set. This will be the second time he's met with Arthur Blank for a job, as Ryan interviewed for the gig prior to the 2008 season. Ryan has one of the best defensive minds in football, but hasn't really been done any favors with a solid offense or a quarterback during his time with the Jets. The Falcons have the offensive firepower in place, and Ryan has the resume that screams ability to rebuild Atlanta's defense. When he's made the playoffs, Ryan has a history of success. That should excite the Falcons as well.
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Former Buffalo Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone
Doug Marrone has ties to the state, as he was an assistant with Georgia Tech from 1996-1999, and with the Georgia Bulldogs in 2000. He has head coaching experience in the college ranks (Syracuse, 2009-2012) and in the NFL with the Bills over the last two seasons. He was also offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints from 2006-2008. Marrone hasn't set a definite interview date with the Falcons, but has agreed to meet with the team sometime next week. He fits Arthur Blank's wish for a player's coach, but he only has three seasons with a winning record (two at Syracuse and one with the Bills) in six as a head coach, and owns an overall head coaching record of 25-25 in college and 15-17 in the NFL.