Yesterday, a few more names were added to the list of potential Atlanta Falcons head coaching candidates as they look to replace recently fired Mike Smith. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that the Falcons have requested interviews for Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, while NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is also on the team’s radar. They join Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to make five candidates that the Falcons have already reached out to.
League rules prohibit teams from interviewing assistant coaches on teams that will be playing in the wildcard round of the playoffs, which means that interviews with Austin and Bowles won’t be conducted until next Monday at the earliest. However teams are allowed to interview assistants on teams that are off this week with a first-round bye, meaning that interviews of Gase, Quinn and McDaniels could all occur before the week is up.
Austin, 49, is finishing his first year as the Lions’ defensive coordinator, with the team ranking third in scoring defense and second in total defense, a marked improvement from what most considered talented but underachieving units under the regime of previous Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Austin joined the Lions as part of Jim Caldwell’s staff, and previously served as a defensive backs coach under Caldwell when he was head coach at Wake Forest (1993-95). After his time at Wake Forest, Austin would serve as a defensive assistant at Syracuse (1996-98) and Michigan (1999-2002) before making the jump to the pros with the Seahawks in 2003 as defensive backs coach. There, he helped guide the career of Marcus Trufant, Desmond’s older brother, until he left to coach the Arizona’s secondary in 2007. He served on the Cardinals’ staff when they went to the Super Bowl the following season. He went on to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2010, where his unit ranked ninth in total defense and 12th in pass defense nationally. After the hiring of Will Muschamp the following year, Austin returned to the pros to coach the defensive backs of the Baltimore Ravens. He once again oversaw a Super Bowl-caliber secondary before being hired by the Lions in 2014. Austin began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Penn State in 1991, following a brief stint playing pro football in the World League with the Montreal Machine that same year. Austin played college ball at the University of Pittsburgh from 1984-87, and participated in training camps with the Washington Redskins and CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats before landing in Montreal.
Bowles, 51, is coming off his second season as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. In 2013, the Cardinals finished seventh in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. This year, they finished fifth in scoring defense, but fell to 24th in total defense thanks in large part to a number of injuries to key defensive linemen John Abraham and Darnell Dockett and the suspension of linebacker Daryl Washington. Bowles joined the Cardinals after serving as the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles for the second half of the 2012 after the dismissal of Juan Castillo. That unit finished the season 29th in scoring defense and 15th in total defense. Prior to that Bowles served with current Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan as the secondary coach with the Miami Dolphins from 2008-11. He was named interim head coach for the final three games of the 2011 after the dismissal of Tony Sparano, leading the Dolphins to a 2-1 record. Bowles served under Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys from 2005-07 as that team’s secondary coach. He was a defensive backs coach with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-04. He was also a defensive backs coach with the New York Jets in 2000, once again working with Nolan. Prior to that, BOwles defensive as defensive coordinator of Grambling State from 1998-99, Morehouse (1997) and was a player personnel assistant with the Green Bay Packers from 1995-96. Bowles’ coaching career began after playing eight seasons in the NFL as a safety, mostly with the Washington Redskins (1986-90, 1992-93). He spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 1991. Bowles played college ball at Temple, serving as a team captain under current Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
McDaniels, 38, was once a candidate to take over the Falcons head coaching position back in 2008, but withdrew from the team’s search. McDaniels was a hot commodity coming off a 2007 season as the offensive coordinator of a Patriots offense that finished atop the league in both scoring and total defense. That ’07 Patriots offense set what was then a new all-time record for most points scored in a season with 589. After returning to the Patriots in 2008, they fell to fifth and eighth in total and scoring defensive respectively, without the presence of quarterback Tom Brady. That following year, McDaniels wound up taking the head coaching job with the Denver Broncos, hiring Nolan as his defensive coordinator. The Broncos started the season 6-0, but finished 8-8. The Broncos then went 3-9 in 2010 before McDaniels was fired. He landed as offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 2011, coordinating one of the league’s worst offenses as the Rams finished 31st in total offense and 32nd in scoring offense that season. He would return to New England as an offensive assistant after the firing of Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo for that team’s postseason run to the Super Bowl before being promoted back to offensive coordinator in 2012. That 2012 Patriots once again topped the league in both total and scoring defense. Those rankings fell to seventh and third in 2013, while ranking 11th and fourth in total and scoring defense respectively this past season. McDaniels’ coaching career began as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State in 1999, following a playing career at John Carroll University as a wide receiver. In 2001, McDaniels was first hired by the Patriots as a personnel assistant before being promoted to defensive assistant in 2002. He then switched to offense as the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2004 before receiving the offensive coordinator position in 2006. His first year as coordinator, the Patriots ranked 11th and seventh in total and scoring defense, respectively.