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Atlanta Falcons coaching search: Panthers OC Joe Brady

A young play caller with a very bright future.

Carolina Panthers Training Camp Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

This is one in a series of profiles of potential Falcons coaches. If you missed them before, check out our writeups for Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll, and Arthur Smith.

Over the past few seasons, a growing trend amongst the NFL ranks has transpired. The NFL sideline has transformed into a place where young head coaches are now leading the charge for several teams and often become hot candidates for openings.

Set aside the overall results of each coach but in recent seasons, names such as Kevin Stefanski (Browns, age 38), Zac Taylor (Bengals, 37), Sean McVay (Rams, 34), and Joe Judge (Giants, 38) are now being anointed as leaders of NFL franchises. There is a young, up-and-coming coach that made history on the collegiate level in 2019 and even made plenty of great impressions this past season that has landed him on the Falcons head coaching radar.

About Joe Brady

It should be noted very early that Brady is currently at the ripe age of 31. That’s right. Brady is THAT young. But with his resume up to this point, Brady has established a very respectable amount of experience.

He started off as a wide receiver at William & Mary from 2009-2012. From there, he migrated once his playing career was over from William & Mary (2013-14) to Penn State (2015-16), to the New Orleans Saints (2017-18) and then landed at LSU as the program’s passing game coordinator/wide receiver’s coach during their historic 2019 season. That season earned him the job as offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in 2020, where he produced two 1,000-yard receivers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore and helped veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater resurrect his career a bit as a full-time starter.

Coaching philosophy

I understand that the name ‘Kyle Shanahan’ probably precedes the grinding of the teeth from many Falcons fans. But the fact of the matter is, his offensive outlook was executed to perfection in 2016 by the Falcons. A scheme that was predicated on forcing defenses to defend every personnel piece on the field and every single piece of that field.

Enter Joe Brady.

Brady deploys a scheme with similarities that forces defenses to defend vertical concepts as well has horizontal concepts in the passing game. A scheme that utilizes running backs to pressure a defense beyond the traditional dump-off in the flats and the regular ole running back screen. It is all about getting players in space with room to eat up yards.

As you can tell from this simple GIF, a 3x1 receiver set is utilized. Notice the running back’s wheel route pulls a linebacker out of the center of the field and a dig route forces the MIKE linebacker to play the dig concept which leaves the underneath drag open to catch and get upfield for an additional 16 yards.

This is just one nibble of the entire meal that Brady is able to cook up on offense as a play caller. This was an aspect that was often seen during the days of Shanahan but rarely seen during the 2020 season as we had to endure the play calling of, yeah, you know who I’m speaking of.

Within Brady’s overall philosophy, there is the welcome aspect of having a variety of approaches that an offense is willing to apply as the game is unveiled. Establishing tempo, deploying a barrage of formations and groupings and looking to take the opponents weakness and make them worry about it for four long quarters. It is a spread system mostly that has versatility that is not often seen across the NFL landscape.

There really is not much of a true, narrow “strength” within Brady’s overall scheme due to the consistent implementing of balanced play calling. This past season, the Panthers averaged roughly 25 rushes a game and 34 passes per game compared to the Falcons averaging 26 rushes a game and nearly 40 passes a game. As a result, Ryan led the league in passing attempts with 626. Brady’s concept can allow the Falcons to use each skill position player and his strength—assuming they have the personnel handy to take full advantage—while also forcing defenses to not necessarily get comfortable in defending a balanced attack.

Age concerns?

While we are here, we might as well address the obvious elephant in the room. Brady recently turned 31 this past September and will be the youngest head coach in the league by several years. Understandably, it can be a cause of concern for some, just as it was with McVay and the Los Angeles Rams.

Once I hear this concern, I always pinpoint how McVay surrounded himself with veteran coaches such as Aaron Kromer, Wade Phillips, and Joe Barry on his very first staff, inserting assistant coaches with well over 20 years experience on the sideline along with him. The same will need to occur also with Brady in the event that he is tabbed as the next head coach in Atlanta. Sure, he is super young, but adding plenty of veteran leadership on the coaching staff alongside him can help offset that.

Bottom line

Seeing that the Falcons interviewed Joe Brady for their vacant head coaching spot should have sent a few signals that while incredibly young, Brady has sparked plenty of interest from not only the Falcons, but from other teams around the league. His ability to be a profoundly dangerous play caller can check the box that a lot of the Falcons fan base is looking to fulfill this offseason the fanbase has mostly had complaints about the offense post-Shanahan.

I’ll admit that his hiring would be against the grain a bit when it comes pinpointing what owner Arthur Blank may be looking for, especially when the rest of the coaching interview list features more experienced candidates like Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, and Raheem Morris. But that also does not discount the fact that Brady’s offensive wizardry could wind up being a treat to watch for years to come in Atlanta.