Steve Spagnuolo is not a surprise. The Falcons have been linked with him more or less from the moment Brian Van Gorder hoofed it back to the college ranks, and it's not hard to see why. Spags runs an aggressive defense that blitzes frequently and plays tighter coverage, which is clearly what Thomas Dimitroff is hoping for:
"Obviously, that coordinator is going to work hand-and-hand with Mike Smith in helping to create a very aggressive defense," Dimitroff said. "Our hope is that we will, in the very near future, land that individual who we think is very appropriate with his approach to helping this defense grow."
Creativity, versatility and a strong voice in personnel will all be required, and Arthur Blank has insisted he wants coordinators who will have input on who's on the field. Spags is coming off a head coaching stint and would fit every single one of those criteria. If the Falcons truly are willing to throw a lot of money at him, they might even have a shot.
The other top choice is Mike Nolan. He's a good coordinator—look at the Dolphins this year—but he's more of a 3-4 guy. DOL writes that the Falcons could work elements of the 3-4 into Mike Smith's 4-3, but I have no idea what he means by that. Perhaps one of you cares to take a stab at it?
If the Falcons are willing to switch to a 3-4 or believe Nolan can be just as effective with a more aggressive version of their current scheme, this makes sense. If they're counting on him being able to seamlessly transition back to the 4-3s he ran in his pre-Jets days, this makes sense. If not, I have to believe Nolan's an interview and guy of interest, but not necessarily a top choice. Otherwise, why on earth are you hiring a 3-4 guy to run a 4-3? Check out scar988's Twitter comments.