The Falcons promised to evaluate the organization from top to bottom this offseason, and they kicked things off by promoting one assistant coach and firing two, all on the defensive side of the ball.
A quick overview of the moves: The Falcons promoted linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich to assistant head coach, though he’ll remain the linebackers coach. Ulbrich took over calling some plays shortly before the bye and continued to call first and second down plays while Raheem Morris handled third downs and two minute drills.
The team has also fired Jerome Henderson, the team’s defensive passing game coordinator from 2016-2019, and Travis Jones, the assistant defensive line coach from 2018-2019.
Sources tell @TheAthleticATL that the Falcons have decided to part ways with defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson.— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) January 2, 2020
In addition to Jerome Henderson, the Falcons have decided to relieve assistant defensive line Travis Jones of his duties.— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) January 2, 2020
There’s no stated reasoning just yet for any of these moves, but I think it’s fair to guess at them. Ulbrich’s work as a play caller for a resurgent defense and his reputation as a fine coach probably earned him the step up, and that vacancy had opened because Raheem Morris has gone from a position coach to the defensive coordinator. Ulbrich has been, by all indications, a great hire who has worked very well with the likes of Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun, so that’s something to applaud.
Henderson is likely out because Morris will want his own fingerprints (and if he’s not doing it directly, his own guy) serving as the passing game coordinator. Henderson was a Quinn hire dating back to 2016, but the team’s work against the pass has been pretty spotty for each of the past four seasons, and it’s likely those first eight games of pure confusion from the team’s defensive backs helped seal his fate.
Jones may be the latest victim of the defensive line coaching carousel, which has been repeatedly spinning with the lack of development from players not named Grady Jarrett. Again, Morris may have his own hire in mind, potentially someone from his past. We’ll have to dig into his old assistants in the near future to see who might be up.
Congratulations to Ulbrich, and we’ll hope Henderson and Jones land on their feet elsewhere.