The Falcons hired former Saints defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator to fill the defensive coordinator role that opened up when Dean Pees retired. Falcons fans overwhelmingly approve of the hire.
Based on the results of our recent SB Nation Reacts survey, 89 percent of Falcons fans think Neilsen was the right hire for Atlanta.
Here’s what fans had to say about the hire:
The Falcons held Neilsen’s introductory press conference on Monday, and here are some highlights.
On why he wanted to join the Falcons’ staff:
“It’s the right fit. Ownership, head coach, general manager, we see a lot of things the same,” Neilsen said. “Where this program is going, the organization and how the guys play. Definitely the right fit and the place I wanted to be.”
On whether he plans to keep some elements of Dean Pees’ scheme:
“Sure. Dean’s done a great job here. One of things is we don’t want to just blow everything up and start all over again,” Neilsen said. “We’re going to take what we’ve done well here the last couple of years. We’re going to implement some new things, put in some new ideas and just kind of marry it. We have some coaches on the staff right now that have coached a lot of good football. The most important thing is, look, when we get out on the grass and we start playing, it’s the Atlanta Falcons defense. That’s the most important thing. There have been a lot of guys that have coached for a lot of years. We’ll put this together and take what’s best that we’ve all done. That will be our defense.”
On what stood out about Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot during the interview process:
“Just kind of what we just talked about – hard, tough, physical, aggressive. Those are all of the things that I believe in coming up through all of the places I’ve been. You just take a little bit out of every place and every coach that you’ve been around, and you try to take the best of that and marry that into your philosophies,” Neilsen said. “Just talking, obviously, Terry and I have the relationship in the past. That was easy. Getting with Coach, I believe in everything that he’s saying – his beliefs, his philosophies. It was very easy. Really, when he offered, I about jumped through the phone. I said, ‘I’m in. Let’s go.’”
On what it’s been like transitioning into Flowery Branch:
“First of all, it’s been awesome. Wouldn’t want it any other way. Was hired Friday night and I’m on a plane on Sunday going to Vegas. Staff meeting Monday morning before practice. We’re out in the rain and seeing the guys,” Neilsen said. “The assistant coaches on the staff are fantastic. They’re so welcoming. Just getting to know those guys – I know a few of them before – coached with them, coached against them. That process was awesome. I really enjoyed that time with those guys out there. Then, today, just everybody in the building is so welcoming and helpful and things like that. In the future here, I’m excited about the relationships that we’ve started already working with these guys. Then, now getting to know the players. The players, just the guys that I’ve talked to on the phone and visited with just a little bit, they’ve been energetic. They’ve been excited, which fires me up. I’m ready to go out there and practice today.”
On what Falcons fans can expect from his defense:
“Well, we’ll see. I don’t want to give too much away,” Neilsen said. “Again, they’ve done some good things here and some of the places that myself and some of the other coaches have been have done some good things so we’re just going to marry what we’ve all done. It’s going to be the best Falcons defense and what’s best for these players and take it out on the grass and implement it when we get into games.”
Will the Falcons run a 3-4 or a 4-3 under Neilsen?
“You guys can call it whatever you want to call it, let’s just stop people,” he said. “Whatever you want to write, we stop people. So, this has been said, when you get to your five DB’s package, your nickel packages and all that, your four down, and when you’re in your base does it look—just because a guy lined up here and a guy lined up there, the principles are very similar. Again, we’re going to be multiple, we’re going to be multiple in what we do, and it may look 3-4 but it may also look 4-3 so I’m good if you call it either one, that’s fine.”
And y’all are going to love this, on the Neilsen family trading in their Saints gear for Falcons gear:
“So, this is awesome. So, we’re in Vegas and my wife sends me a picture of two of the middle kids and my sons got a camouflage Falcons hat and they’re both in red and their smiles are like this *smiles*,” Neilsen said. “I was with Coach [Arthur Smith] and I got the picture and I’m like ‘Coach, check this out man, this is awesome!’, I go to Terry [Fontenot] and I’m like ‘boom!’. I go and call my wife and she goes “yeah, they’re jumping around and they’re running around.” They are so fired up to get up here. One of the things with Coach [Arthur Smith] is being family oriented and the kids being at practice and stuff so, they’ll be running around, particularly in the offseason and will be around the building as much as they can. My son is fired up, he can’t wait to get here. I got on the plane last night and he says, ‘can I go?’ it’s pretty cool.”
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