The Union Recorder

Local Sports

January 9, 2013

Coordinators Nolan, Koetter giving Falcons balance

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Last year's playoff disappointment hit so hard that Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith needed to change his staff from the top.

It seems Smith made the right decisions when he hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and Dirk Koetter to run the offense.

"In my mind we have the best coaching staff in the NFL," Smith said.

How long he can keep it together is unclear.

The Falcons' success this season helped Koetter earn a head coaching interview last week with Kansas City. Nolan, the former head coach in San Francisco, interviewed for the same job with Philadelphia.

And Keith Armstrong, the Falcons' special teams coordinator since Smith put his first Atlanta staff together in 2008, interviewed for head coaching vacancies with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Koetter withdrew his name from consideration after signing a new contract with the Falcons through 2014. Nolan and Armstrong both sidestepped on Tuesday night whether they hope to meet again with other teams after Atlanta's season ends.

They could be available to do so as early as next week if the Falcons (13-3) lose Sunday at home to Seattle (12-5) in the second round of the playoffs.

"Hopefully we're still playing," Nolan said.

Though it's not Smith's style to say so publicly, the Falcons were considered a team that had gone soft and predictable offensively and defensively after last year's 24-2 playoff loss at the New York Giants.

So perhaps Jacksonville did Smith a favor when it hired Koetter's predecessor, Mike Mularkey, as head coach. Auburn did the same by hiring Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator.

Atlanta earned the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed for the second time in three years, thanks in part to Koetter helping quarterback Matt Ryan enjoy a career-best season, and Nolan putting his players in position to earn 31 takeaways.

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