Falcons move quickly to replace coordinators
The Falcons' offseason makeover is underway.
Both coordinators and two position coaches have moved on since the team was eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Giants on Jan. 8.
Mike Mularkey took the head coaching job at Jacksonville and took quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski along as his offensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder returned to the college ranks as he accepted the same position with Auburn in a move that was described as a "family decision."
Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau was relieved of his duties.
Mularkey and VanGorder were replaced by Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan, respectively. Koetter was Jacksonville's offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2011. Nolan was Miami's defensive coordinator over the last two seasons.
Koetter met with quarterback Matt Ryan for about an hour during the interview process and said that he has more film study to do on the Falcons, but stated that he's a proponent of the vertical passing game, running the football and that he's been ordered to improve the team's screen passing attack.
Some contend that the Falcons, who finished 10-6 and lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the New York Giants, became too predictable on offense under Mularkey.
The offense finished ranked seventh in points scored (25.1 points per game), 10th in total offense (376.6 yards), third in time of possession (32:05).
Ryan broke the single-season passing mark set by Jeff George in 1995, but the unit struggled inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The Falcons scored 31 touchdowns on 60 red-zone trips (51.6 percent), which was 13th in the league. Detroit led the league at 66.1 percent.
Last season, after veteran quarterback David Garrard was released on Sept. 6, the Jaguars went with inexperienced quarterbacks and finished last in the league in total offense, averaging 259.3 yards per game.
Koetter said he'll combine the best parts of the two offenses.
"It would be foolish to not build on some of the things that Atlanta is already doing very well and take advantage of those coaches that are going to remain on the staff and what they've done," Koetter said. "Definitely, watching from afar, Atlanta played well in the no-huddle. (From) talking to Matt Ryan, that is something that Matt is excited about, so the no-huddle will certainly be a part of it."
In 1993, Nolan was named the league's youngest defensive coordinator at age 34.
"He's a heck of a football coach and a great person," former Falcons coach Dan Reeves said. "That's a good hire for them."
Nolan and Falcons coach Mike Smith were on the same coaching staff in Baltimore.
"Mike and I did work together in Baltimore," Nolan said. "I became defensive coordinator and Mike was the linebacker coach. I think we were together one year before he got the coordinator's job at Jacksonville and left.
"I've always had tremendous respect for Mike. I think he's an outstanding coach. He's coached some very good players. I think he gets a lot out of his players. He's an outstanding person. We've stayed in contact and remained friends."
Nolan's father, Dick Nolan, was a former NFL player and coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints.
Last season, the Dolphins had 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. The Falcons had just 33 sacks, which ranked 19th.
While Nolan is noted as a 3-4 coach, the Falcons will remain primarily a 4-3 team. Smith noted that the Falcons have drafted for the 4-3.
Nolan does have plenty of 4-3 experience, too.
"We played 4-3 in New York and he did a great job," Reeves said. "Those things are interchangeable. You coach to the personnel that you have. ... We ran some 3-4 in New York, too because we had Lawrence Taylor. He's coached both."