They both love defense. They're both named "Mike." And they both enjoy a quiet walk at sunset on a secluded beach, strawberry margarita in hand.
Mike Smith and Mike Nolan need each other. Yes, I know, this is a given: all head coaches need a competent defensive coordinator. But in atypical fashion, Smith and Nolan have closely tied job security. Nolan, just rewarded with a new, two year deal, isn't going anywhere. Smith, just extended for one year, also isn't going anywhere. As it stands, their deals will expire after the 2015 season concludes.
Since Nolan said his contract expired at the end of the 2013 season, it means he is now signed through 2015. In other words, his contract runs concurrent with Smith’s, who received a one-year extension with one year left on the deal he signed in 2011.
In a way this makes perfect sense. The Falcons' offense, where its offensive line allows it, is fairly competent. The same isn't true of the defense. They're either too old, too young, incapable of fundamental tackling, or just plain bad. To be sure, they're improving, and that's great. They have some young, dynamic talent to work with. But in a very real sense, it seems the ultimate success of this era rests squarely in their hands.
For Smith and Nolan, turning this defense around is key. It's the key to the Falcons' success now, and it's the key to their job security going forward. If Nolan fails, so will Smith.