The first name we heard connected to the Falcons offensive coordinator opening under Arthur Smith was Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone. The first name we heard connected to the defensive coordinator opening was longtime Patriots, Ravens, and Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees. It now appears those names were linked to the jobs for good reason, as they’ve been hired alongside new special teams coordinator Marquice Williams
The team made the hirings of Ragone, Pees, and Williams official this evening. They also announced that wide receivers coach Dave Brock will remain in his role.
Williams was the only name who was not reported before today. The Lions assistant special teams coach was involved in a unit that was quietly pretty excellent, and hopefully he can help out a return game that has been pretty chronically underwhelming in recent years. Having Younghoe Koo and Sterling Hofrichter settled in at their respective positions, plus excellent long snapper Josh Harris, should give him a good start as he figures out who he wants contributing on special teams for the Falcons.
Marquice Williams is intriguing. Special teams assistant for the #Lions from 2019-2020. Some notable Detroit numbers from 2020:— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) January 21, 2021
3rd in yards per punt return (12.8)
8th in yards per kickoff return (24.9)
3rd in yards allowed per punt return (5.5) https://t.co/S8FgwKbfJa
Ragone is a former NFL Europe MVP and had a short stint as a quarterback in the NFL before transitioning into coaching. He spent the last season as the Bears passing game coordinator—a thankless job if there ever was one—and was Chicago’s quarterbacks coach from 2016 to 2019, surviving the transition from John Fox to Matt Nagy in that role. Ragone overlapped with Arthur Smith in Tennessee when he coached wide receivers and then quarterbacks for the Titans and Smith coached tight ends, meaning Smith has seen his coaching first-hand. As Smith intends to call plays in Atlanta, Ragone will presumably have input into scheming and planning for the offense, and will have Chicago running backs coach Charles London on staff as the quarterbacks coach.
It’s a bit of a risky hire on paper—Ragone did not exactly preside over a great passing attack in Chicago and has not turned Mitch Trubisky into a special quarterback during his time with him—but Smith is going with someone he knows and respects. Let’s hope it works out.
Pees is a more storied name. He has coached 7 top 10 defenses in terms of yardage and 8 in terms of scoring with three separate teams, and while his Ravens squads became a little too notorious for blowing late leads for our comfort, he’s experienced and has had a lot of success everywhere he’s gone. There’ll likely be a younger coach hired to serve as a top assistant or co-defensive coordinator, per rumblings we’ve heard to this point, but Pees would be a veteran coach who could handle the side of the ball Smith is not all that experienced in. Pees is known for mixing things up in his defensive alignments, but it’s very possible with him on board that the Falcons will shift to more 3-4 looks up front in 2021, which could have interesting implications for the entire defense.
Finally, Brock came from the head coaching job at Delaware back in 2017 and has served as both the wide receivers and running backs coach in Atlanta, though he’ll stay at wide receivers on Smith’s staff. Brock is credited with doing fine work with this team’s talented group of receivers, including pushing for Russell Gage’s development and role in the offense, and Gage has rewarded that faith with significant growth. Retaining Brock is a good move.
There are more assistant announcements to come, but Arthur Smith’s coaching staff is coming together. What do you think of the hires?