Jerry Gray was frequently mentioned as a candidate for the Falcons’ defensive coordinator opening. An experienced candidate who has twice served as a defensive coordinator and has had multiple stints as a defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, Gray also had ties to Arthur Smith from their shared time in Washington and Tennessee.
All of that experience and that connection didn’t lead to Gray being hired as the defensive coordinator, as that role went to Saints co-defensive coordinator and longtime defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen. But that doesn’t mean that Gray won’t land in Atlanta.
Per NFL inside Mike Garafolo, the Falcons are trying to land Gray for an unspecified role on their coaching staff. With secondary coach Jon Hoke being fired in the wake of Nielsen’s hiring, it seems likely that Gray will have a similar role to the one he’s leaving in Green Bay, which was a defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.
The #Falcons are working on a deal with veteran defensive coach Jerry Gray to join new coordinator Ryan Nielsen, sources say. Gray, who has been with the #Packers the past three seasons as DBs coach/pass game coordinator, coached with Arthur Smith in Washington 2007-08.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 29, 2023
It would put an extremely seasoned coach who has worked extensively with defensive backs in a prominent role on a coaching staff with a rookie defensive coordinator who spent most of his time in New Orleans working with the defensive line, which seems like a wise move for the Falcons. Remember, Gray was the defensive coordinator for the Bills and Titans for multiple seasons, meaning he has play calling experience and knowledge he can hopefully impart to Nielsen. I’d expect Nielsen to raid the Saints coaching staff for other additions beyond Gray, likely to replace fired outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino and defensive line coach Gary Emanuel.
We’ll wait and see what the role is when the move is made official, but given that the Falcons were reportedly thinking about adding Gray as their defensive coordinator, getting him for a lesser role seems like a coup. Hopefully the Falcons are putting the pieces of an effective coaching staff together, because we’ve been waiting a long while for this Atlanta defense to reach greater heights than the ground floor.