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Falcons coaching rumors: Team interested in Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy

If this report is accurate, it would seem to show that Atlanta is zeroing in on offensive-minded head coaching candidates, but there’s a long way to go.

NFL: SEP 05 Packers at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You’re going to hear a lot of coaching rumors between now and the time the Falcons actually hire a new head coach. We’re going to pass along as many of those as we can find, but there will be caveats at times.

Here’s the big caveat here: Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports is the insider behind the latest report, and I’ve found him to be one of the most inconsistent national reporters in terms of how often his reports pan out. That said, he doesn’t bat .000, so it’s worth knowing that the Falcons are reportedly interested in Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieienemy for their next head coaching gig.

Hackett is not a name I really had on my radar before now. He’s been with the Packers each of the past two seasons and has presided over a very productive Green Bay offense that is on pace to break some records this year. Per La Canfora, Hackett is also a guy Rich McKay has connections to, which likely explains at least some of the interest.

Hackett broke into the NFL in 2006 with Tampa as a quality control coach, and his father, Paul Hackett, worked on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa (McKay was part of the Bucs front office that traded for Gruden from the Raiders). He became one of the youngest coordinators in the NFL in 2013 when he ran the Bills offense for Doug Marrone and he served on Marrone’s staff in Jacksonville as well from 2015-18 before going to Green Bay when Matt LaFleur was hired there.

The 40-year-old offensive coordinator’s ties to McKay may help him get an interview, but presumably Green Bay’s fortunes are also a driver here. Like Bieniemy, Hackett is not responsible for calling plays for the Packers (that’d be former Falcons quarterbacks coach and current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur), but he’s gotten love for his rapport with players and his role helping to get the offense ready to go on a weekly basis. Hackett coordinated one top ten offense with Jacksonville, one that deserves a ton of credit because it featured Blake Bortles as the quarterback, and otherwise has mostly presided over middle-of-the-road units with largely middle-of-the-road personnel. We’ll see whether he emerges as a leader for the gig once the season ends, but for now he’s just an interesting name given Green Bay’s fortunes, those McKay ties, and the fact that he’s at least a seasoned offensive mind.

I do genuinely hope that McKay doesn’t let personal ties drive hiring decisions, though I hope that goes without saying.

My preferred candidate Eric Bieniemy is also mentioned at the end of the report as a candidate for the job. He doesn’t have the multi-year play calling history that Hackett brings, but he’s been praised by players and Andy Reid for his leadership and gameplanning for the offense and should be a hot candidate this spring. I hope he gets a real shot at the gig in Atlanta.

Those are the only two names we’ve heard thus far, though interim head coach Raheem Morris will thrust himself into the conversation if he continues to win games. We’re months away from knowing for sure, but chances are we’ll have a solid list of 5 or so rumored candidates before long.