With Dean Pees recently retiring, the Falcons need to find a new defensive coordinator. They have wasted no time as they have, so far, requested to interview three coaches.
First, was Broncos defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero, but Denver—as we all expected—denied the request. The team has now followed it up by requesting interviews with two more candidates.
The Atlanta Falcons put in requests to interview Jerry Gray and Ryan Nielsen
It seems like the Falcons are going to take the route of interviewing coaches that they know well. Jerry Gray—current Packers passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach—spent time with HC Arthur Smith in Tennessee, and Ryan Nielsen—current Saints co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach—spent recent years with GM Terry Fontenot in New Orleans.
Both of those coaches helped lead some solid defenses. The Packers’ defense really stepped up in the latter parts of the season and were much of the reason that Green Bay was a few points away from making the playoffs.
Gray and Neilson played in the NFL, although Gray had a more eventful career in the league. Gray was a first-round pick by the Rams in 1985 as a defensive back out of Texas. He made four Pro Bowls and was voted onto two second-team All-Pro teams. He has been coaching in the NFL since 1995.
As for Nielsen, he was an undrafted defensive tackle out of USC who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles but did not make the team. He immediately became a graduate assistant at USC, climbed the college ranks, and then the Saints hired him to be their defensive line coach in 2017.
This is just the start of the Falcons’ search, so expect many more names to emerge over the next few weeks. It could be a while before they officially name someone as their defensive coordinator.