Falcons Hire Mike Nolan to Lead Defense

Nolan spent the last two seasons as Miami’s defensive coordinator. Prior to that, he served four years as the 49ers head coach, following in the footsteps of his father.

In all, Nolan has been an NFL coordinator for 14 years. He takes over in Atlanta for Brian VanGorder, who returned to the college ranks to take the same position at Auburn.

The Falcons will have two new coordinators next season. Dirk Koetter was hired Sunday to run the offense after Mike Mularkey left to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In another move toward revamping the staff for 2012, head coach Mike Smith announced that offensive line coach Paul Boudreau has been let go. The Falcons line struggled this season, most notably in an ugly 24-2 loss to the New York Giants in the opening round of the playoffs — a game in which Atlanta twice failed to convert on fourth-down quarterback sneaks by Matt Ryan.

The hiring of Nolan figures to be met with more enthusiasm in Atlanta than Smith bringing in Koetter to run an offense that has plenty of weapons but largely failed to meet expectations. Koetter had been the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville, which finished last in total offense and in yards passing.

Nolan’s numbers are much more impressive. The Dolphins allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL (19.6 per game), ranked third in rushing yards (95.6) and tied for 10th with 41 sacks. The biggest question is how to mesh Nolan’s preference for the 3-4 alignment with personnel that is built around Smith favoring the 4-3.

“Mike Nolan is an established coordinator in this league,” Smith said in a statement. “Mike has a history of developing physically intimidating defensive units, and we are fortunate to have him join our staff.”

The Falcons haven’t ranked among the top 10 in yards allowed since 1998, their only season.

The 52-year-old Nolan didn’t have much success as a head coach, going 18-37 with the 49ers — a stint that was perhaps most noteworthy for his desire to wear a suit on the sideline in honor of his father, former 49ers and New Orleans Saints coach Dick Nolan. The league initially resisted, citing its apparel contracts, but eventually worked out a new arrangement.

Nolan is regarded as one of the NFL’s top defensive minds. He was only 34 when tapped by former Falcons coach Dan Reeves to take over as the Giants defensive coordinator in 1993. He’s also served as a coordinator with Washington, the New York Jets, Baltimore and Denver.

In Baltimore, Nolan served on the same staff with Smith.

Bookmark and Share

Browns to Interview Falcons’ Mularkey

Filed at 2:29 p.m. EST

CLEVELAND (AP) — The will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for their head coaching job.

Mularkey said Tuesday he has been contacted by the Browns and . He said he will speak with both teams “at the end of the week.” Mularkey previously coached the and has been an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Miami, as well. The Falcons have a bye this week.

The Browns are looking for their fifth coach since 1999 after was fired. Team president began a wide search on Monday, just hours after firing Mangini, who went 10-22 in two seasons.

Bookmark and Share

Meticulous Mularkey Focuses on Details for Falcons

ATLANTA. Mike Mularkey likes to keep his focus on the Falcons’ next game.

Receiver Michael Jenkins on Wednesday called Mularkey “meticulous.”

Atlanta’s offensive coordinator is all about the details. He’s all about the now. Thanks in part to Mularkey’s focus, the Falcons are all about winning.

Mularkey’s offense ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring and is a big reason the Falcons (11-2) have the NFC’s best record — and poised for a run.

“He’s just real meticulous with his work,” Jenkins said. “He likes to go over everything to the finest detail. If you’ve heard it 30 times, he wants to go over it 31 times. That’s just the way he is. He strives for perfection. And he does a great job of feeling the games, knowing when to put us in no-huddle, when we should continue to run the ball. He has a good sense of that.”

It’s as if Mularkey can make no bad calls.

His offense wears down defenses with a power running game led by 1,000-yard rusher Michael Turner and a dangerous passing attack. Matt Ryan, in his third season, is having his best year while throwing to Roddy White, who leads the NFL with 99 catches.

With Hall of Fame-bound tight end Tony Gonzalez and a line that has been together for three years, Mularkey has a variety of weapons at his disposal.

“I think he tries to be unpredictable,” Gonzalez said. “He tries to keep the defense on their heels with different formations. I think we go into games with like 15 different groupings. Not plays, I’m talking about literally sets, names of groups where like each group is different players in the game. Different sets.

“We never really run anything twice, and that keeps a defense on their heels. That comes from his preparation.”

Mularkey was the offensive coordinator for the and and the head coach at Buffalo before joining Mike Smith in Atlanta.

He said he’d like to be a head coach again but he insisted he isn’t thinking about his next possible career move. For now, he’s consumed with devising a plan for Sunday’s game at Seattle.

Mularkey, zoned in on the Seattle defense, was caught off guard this week with a question about his future: Was he aware that he was mentioned in a TV report as a possible candidate to be the next head coach in Denver, where Josh McDaniels was fired and Eric Studesville is the interim coach?

Mularkey seemed to be genuinely stumped by the question.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

Mularkey’s success in three seasons with coach Mike Smith in Atlanta is likely to ensure his name continues to be included in speculation about head jobs.

“I’d like the opportunity again,” Mularkey said. “I would if it ever presents itself.”

He was 14-18 in two seasons with the , including a 9-7 record in 2004. In Atlanta, he has been part of a three-year run of winning seasons — especially impressive considering the Falcons had never before managed back-to-back winning records.

Ryan said he “absolutely” would not be surprised to see a team interview Mularkey for a head coaching position.

“That’s part of this industry,” said Ryan, who has thrown for 3,147 yards with 22 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions “That’s a great thing. He’s a great coach. He’s a great person. Obviously, I’d love to have him stick around here my entire career, but that’s not always the case.”

Ryan said his goal is to make the most of this season with Mularkey.

“One of the things I’m excited about is this year and not looking too far down the road, and knowing that Mike will make a good decision for himself and his family in the future,” Ryan said. “But I’m glad that we have him for this season.”

Mularkey said he has had no reason to consider how he would approach interest from another team.

“No, to be honest with you, it hasn’t even crossed my mind,” he said. “We’re trying to win this football game. I’m telling my players to focus on the now, don’t worry about anything else, don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. You have absolutely no control over what anybody else is doing, in regards to jobs or any of that.”

Bookmark and Share