With Dean Pees retiring for the third and likely final time, the Falcons are in the market for a defensive coordinator, and there is no shortage of high-quality candidates. Atlanta is leaving no stone unturned, targeting the top names. The team has already been denied an interview request with Broncos defensive coordinator Ejire Evero, but they’ll likely interview Brian Flores, who is primed to return to a DC role in 2023. The Falcons are also targeting Saints, Packers, and Panthers assistants for the position.
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the Falcons have requested to interview Saints co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.
The Falcons have requested to interview Saints co-DC/D-line coach Ryan Nielsen for their defensive coordinator vacancy, per league sources. Nielsen's work in recent years with New Orleans’ defensive front is highly regarded around the league.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 14, 2023
The 43-year-old joined New Orleans as the defensive line coach in 2017, where his connection to Terry Fontenot derives. In 2021, Nielsen was promoted to assistant head coach, then again in 2022 to co-defensive coordinator. He’s highly regarded around the league.
Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith are also targeting Green Bay defensive passing game coordinator Jerry Gray, who has extensive experience working with Smith during the pair’s time in Washington and Tennessee.
Per league source: The Atlanta Falcons have requested to interview Green Bay Packers Pass Game Coordinator Jerry Gray, and plan to conduct an interview next week.
Gray is a well respected long time DBs coach and former DC for the Bills and Titans.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) January 14, 2023
Gray is about as experienced as any coach in the league. He began as a defensive quality control coach with the Oilers in the late ’90s and spent time with the Titans, Bills, Seahawks, and Vikings in defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator roles over 20+ years. Despite being well-versed in the NFL, the Packers defense was incredibly disappointing this season, given the wildly talented personnel. Now, it can’t all be put on Jerry Gray’s shoulders, but he deserves a share of the blame.
According to Mike Garafolo, the Falcons are interviewing Panthers interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb as well.
The #Falcons are interviewing #Panthers interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb for their DC role today, sources say. Holcomb would remain in Carolina if Steve Wilks gets the HC job. But while the team is exploring its options, Holcomb has been given permission to do the same.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 17, 2023
The Panthers overachieved once Matt Rhule was fired, and it shows how great of coaches Steve Wilks and Holcomb are. The latter has spent more than a decade in the NFL as a run game coordinator, linebackers coach, defensive assistant, and defensive coordinator. Most recently, he’s spent time in Carolina and Cleveland, serving as the teams’ run game coordinators.