The San Diego Chargers announced yesterday that former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will become their new linebackers coach. The Falcons are poised to hire Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their new head coach next week and reports surfaced earlier this week about Quinn’s choice for his new defensive coordinator, pushing Nolan out the door. Replacing Nolan will be former Denver Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith as defensive coordinator.
Nolan finishes his tenure as the Falcons defensive coordinator on less than glowing terms, as the Falcons ranked last in the NFL this past year in yards allowed. In fact, the 2014 Falcons defense gave up the ninth most yards in NFL history. The defense showed a progressive decline over Nolan’s three-year tenure. Their best finish came in 2012, where they finished fifth in scoring defense and 24th in total defense. That fell to 27th in both categories in 2013, before seeing this past year’s lows. The Falcons once again finished 27th in scoring defense this past year.
Nolan was a candidate for the vacant Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator position, but that team opted to hire from within to replace Todd Bowles, who departed for the head-coaching position with the New York Jets earlier this month.
Nolan has not coached linebackers since 1992 when he was a position coach under head coach Dan Reeves with the Broncos. The following year he followed Reeves to the New York Giants as defensive coordinator, a position he’s held ever since outside one season coaching the wide receivers of the Baltimore Ravens (2001) and nearly four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers head coach (2005-08). His first stint as a pro coach came as the Broncos’ linebackers and special teams coach in 1987. Following his collegiate playing career at the University of Oregon as a safety, Nolan broke into the coaching ranks at Stanford (1982-83) and LSU (1985-86) as a linebackers coach.