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Falcons in the “home stretch” of defensive coordinator search, wrap interview with Saints’ Ryan Nielsen

It sounds like a decision will be coming soon after a quiet stretch in interviews.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Things have been quiet around the Falcons’ search for a new defensive coordinator. In a NFL news landscape where we expect ongoing updates at all times, we haven’t had an update on Atlanta’s search in nearly 5 days. Dean Pees retired just over two weeks ago and we still don’t have answers? How is this possible.

For comparison, some teams tweet when they wrap up a coaching interview. Sometimes you get a picture of both the interviewee and plenty of the team’s brain trust huddled over a table. The Falcons have been quiet, with the last update being a rumor coming close to a week back.

The team is not providing press releases about its search.

On Tuesday, we did get a sneak peak into the team’s search via Mike Garafolo.

The most newsworthy from Garafolo is that the team’s search is entering the “home stretch.” What that means we are guessing, but my guess is the Falcons will have a small handful of second interviews before getting someone to sign onto the job. Based on the known candidates, Atlanta should have few issues with settling this by the weekend... or Friday if Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot want to enjoy their weekend.

Nielsen, who interviewed today, is my projected favorite for the job. That’s based primarily on his connection and background with Terry Fontenot, his impressive and consistent success with the Saints defense, and the fact his age (43) provides a newer approach and mindset than the prior defensive coordinator.

Below is a quick rundown of other candidates, and our understanding of where they stand via our coach interview tracker:

  • Vic Fangio, former Broncos head coach, interviewed on 1/18. He’d be fun but news about the search dried up after this was reported.
  • Al Holcomb, Panthers interim defensive coordinator, interviewed on 1/17. He’d likely want to stick with the Carolina Panthers if they retain Steve Wilks.
  • Brian Flores, former Miami Dolphins head coach, interviewed on 1/19. He’s still in the running for some head coaching positions, which means he will likely wait for a better job, or a better coordinator spot to put him in better position for a head coach job in 2024.
  • Jerry Gray, Packers defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, was reportedly scheduled to interview during the weekend or early this week.
  • Ejiro Evero, the current Broncos defensive coordinator, was denied an interview request. The Falcons, if they’re patient, should get an opportunity to interview him after Denver wraps up its head coach search. However, as that hasn’t happened, and this process is in the home stretch, Evero doesn’t sound likely to land in Atlanta.
  • Jim Haslett, most recently a Titans linebacker coach, was very loosely rumored to be of interest to the Falcons on Twitter. That tweet was deleted after the rumor was reportedly incorrect.

That’s it for the Falcons’ search. No one else has been linked to Atlanta by reliable sources. For those keeping track at home, that is five coaches that have actually interviewed for the Falcons.

My guess is we see agents leaking news of second interviews to get a last minute push on those coaches. Expect updates Thursday or Friday.