Whether the search takes a week or a month, the rumors and reporting around the quest for a new Atlanta Falcons head coach will be frequent and by turns intriguing and alarming. Trying to make sense of all of them is sure to be dizzying.
We’ll do our best here. This will be a daily roundup of all the reports and rumors fit to use digital ink on, beginning with the same day the Falcons fired Arthur Smith.
Ejiro Evero (x2)
Bill Belichick (x2)
Raheem Morris (x2)
Ravens associate head coach Anthony Weaver (second requested)
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson
49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris
Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero (second requested)
Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik
Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald (second requested)
Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce (hired by Raiders)
Bills interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady
Former Titans head coach Mike Vrabel
9:49 a.m.: Adam Schefter spoke on ESPN this morning and cast doubt on the idea that Bill Belichick is the favorite in Atlanta at this point, with the search continuing and the Falcons reportedly impressed with other candidates.
The tug-of-war between Falcons team sources, Belichick’s camp, and leaguewide sources continues, but it does seem that the more we hear about other candidates and the more this thing stretches on, the less likely it is that Belichick is ultimately the candidate the Falcons land on. The time and care gives Arthur Blank the opportunity to entertain other options, and if it truly will come down to Rich McKay versus Belichick, it’s not hard to imagine the owner sticking with a friend and trusted confidant over a new head coach.
1:49 pm.: The Falcons have completed in-person second interviews with Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. That means that Atlanta has officially fulfilled the Rooney Rule requirements and could now hire a coach at any time.
With several scheduled second interviews still coming (Bobby Slowik, Ben Johnson, Aaron Glenn, Jim Harbaugh), it seems unlikely Atlanta will make a hire anytime soon. Expect the search to continue into the weekend and perhaps beyond.
10:55 a.m.: There’s a sense that rising Houston offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who gets at least partial credit for revitalizing a passing game led by a special rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud, made a big impression on Falcons brass.
I put extra weight in anything coming from Steve Wyche because he came up at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and still has strong ties and sources in Atlanta, so add Slowik to your shortlist of coaches that the team may have a higher level of interest in.
10:05 a.m.: Josh Kendall at The Athletic gives an update on the search and notes that his sense from talking to sources around the NFL (and likely team) is that it’s no longer Bill Belichick or bust, if it ever was. He also expects the search to stretch into the end of this week if not well into next week, so buckle up.
3:47 p.m.: The Falcons have requested second interviews with Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and associate head coach Anthony Weaver, per Ian Rapoport.
Macdonald should be a hot candidate given what he’s done for this Ravens defense, which is loaded with talent but has looked incredible with him at the helm. Weaver was a defensive coordinator for the Texans back in 2020 and has been John Harbaugh’s associate head coach for the past two seasons, with a strong defensive background and a prominent role for one of the better coaching staffs in the league.
9:56 p.m.: The Falcons knocked off interviews with Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik today and have requested a second interview with Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
As I wrote earlier, the perception that the Falcons were locked onto Belichick seems to have rankled the team somewhat, but there’s little question that the candidate list they’ve put together both pre-Belichick and now is a damn good one, full of worthwhile coaches. The fact that they are by all appearances in no hurry to jump on Belichick, which was my great fear heading into this coming week, is a comfort. I’m not convinced they’ll land a different coach at this point, but I’m hopeful the long look will have them land the right one.
10:35 a.m.: The biggest names in league insiderdom are spending this morning talking about how expansive the Falcons’ search is. While that’s true—Raheem Morris interviewed yesterday and Bobby Slowik will interview today, and the Falcons have an impressive list of candidates—it’s also clear that the organization has belatedly realized that leaguewide and in the fanbase, the perception was that Bill Belichick was a done deal. I wrote an article about it at the end of last week, but that was based on reporting that continually cited league sources and league expectations, driven by Arthur Blank apparently being enamored with the idea of hiring Belichick.
Falcons are interviewing Texans’ OC Bobby Slowik today. They also will be meeting this week with Mike Vrabel and Jim Harbaugh in person, and scheduling other in-person head-coaching interviews as well. Their HC search is said to be “wide open.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 21, 2024
I think there are many other stakeholders in the building—Rich McKay and Terry Fontenot among them—who prefer other candidates and benefit from a longer, more thorough search, but I imagine Blank is also sensitive to the idea that he’s locked in on a coach no other franchise seems to be chasing all that intently. Regardless of who is driving it, the fact that the Falcons are spending so much time with an impressive list of candidates and not just tying this thing up with Belichick immediately is a very good thing.
6:43 p.m.: We got a flurry of updates tonight, with the Falcons reportedly scheduling interviews with Jim Harbaugh and (in a new name) former Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. Both are set for next week, which means the search will continue until those (and in-person interviews with minority candidates, as required by the Rooney Rule) are completed. Anyone currently under contract with an NFL team can’t meet in-person with other teams until Monday, so we’re looking at that as the earliest point the Falcons could knock out their interviews; it’s unlikely in the extreme they’ll do so early in the week.
Jonathan Jones at CBS Sports broke down where things stand currently, with the team lining up more interview requests and a note that the Falcons don’t intend to shove through the process to get it done with Belichick. A source who knows Belichick told Jones that Blank is clearly desperate to land the head coach, even so, and that in the source’s estimation it’s “50/50” the Falcons land him at this point. I don’t see any reason to stop believing that Belichick is the favorite for the job, but it would be comforting to know that the Falcons will seriously weigh the six or seven interviews they either have lined up or will be lining up next week, rather than just going through them to get to the point where they can get it done with Belichick.
4:12 pm.: Here’s an interesting wrinkle: The Falcons have added Joe Brady to their request list.
The Falcons have requested permission to interview Bills interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady for their vacant head-coaching job, sources say. Brady previously interviewed for the job in 2021.— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) January 19, 2024
Brady interviewed back in 2021 and was rumored to be a Terry Fontenot favorite, and he’ll get another bite at the apple now. It’s fair to wonder if, with the Falcons seemingly closing in on Belichick, that Brady will be there as much for the Falcons to feel out his fit as an offensive coach on Belichick’s staff as a head coaching candidate. But his inclusion this late in the process could be a sign the Falcons aren’t closing this search out quite yet.
2:21 p.m.: This is starting to look like a done deal, though the official announcement may be days or even a week away. Barring a major upset, Bill Belichick will be the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons have Bill Belichick as their top candidate, flying him into Atlanta on one of Arthur Blank's private planes last night.— Dianna Russini (@DMRussini) January 19, 2024
Dinner last night, more meetings to come, per multiple sources.
12:59 p.m: The Falcons completed their interview with Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, per the team. This interview request had not been previously reported. Johnson’s Eagles started the year hot on offense but fell off precipitously over the final month of the season.
10:50 a.m.: Atlanta will be hosting a second interview with Bill Belichick at some unspecified point this weekend, per NFL insider Ian Rapoport.
Sources: Former #Patriots coach Bill Belichick will have a second interview with the #Falcons brass this weekend after meeting with owner Arthur Blank 1-on-1 this past week. Things are ramping up with the greatest coach of all time… pic.twitter.com/UR8LnJcYSS— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2024
There are no other second interviews scheduled at this point to our knowledge, and the Falcons haven’t even completed all of their initial interviews just yet. This would seem to be a strong sign that the Falcons are moving toward securing Belichick as their head coach.
7:49 a.m.: The Falcons seem likely to let their assistants leave now, as Ryan Nielsen is interviewing with the Jaguars and there is no indication that the Falcons will block the move.
SOURCE: Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is expected to interview for the Jaguars DC job. Nielsen made a big impact in his 1st season, improving the Falcons from 26th to 7th in YPP allowed; from 31st in the NFL to 3rd in 3rd down D; and from 25th to 8th in pass defense.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 17, 2024
This would seem to indicate that the Falcons have talked to their top candidates about their coaching staff—I’d point to Harbaugh and Belichick in particular here—and they’re not interested in retaining Nielsen or Marquice Williams.
10:21 p.m.: The Falcons just announced another big name, as they’ve officially interviewed Jim Harbaugh for their head coaching opening. Check out our full story elsewhere on the site.
9:56 p.m.: The lull is over. Earlier today we learned that the Patriots have requested an interview with Marquice Williams to add him as their special teams coordinator, an interview request the Falcons have curiously not (to our knowledge) blocked despite blocking Williams from an interview with the Giants earlier. Then we learned that they have officially interviewed Bill Belichick.
Earlier in the day, our intrepid Cory Woodroof sniffed out a potential story when a pair of Tweets pointing to Belichick meeting with Arthur Blank on Blank’s yacht surfaced. We don’t know if those are accurate or not, but we do know that Belichick met with Blank in person because NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero is reporting it.
Legendary coach Bill Belichick and #Falcons owner Arthur Blank met in person recently to discuss Atlanta’s head coaching job, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 16, 2024
No deal is imminent. But there is mutual interest and conversations are ongoing. pic.twitter.com/Lcnpemj4bZ
While mutual interest has been rumored and the Falcons’ interest had been all but confirmed, this is the proof we’ve been waiting for that this is more than ardent pursuit from Atlanta that wasn’t destined to be answered. The fact that this isn’t a done deal yet means Belichick may still be exploring his options, but we’re closer than ever to something Blank and the team clearly want very badly.
11:00 a.m.: We’re hitting the lull. The Cowboys might be on the verge of firing Mike McCarthy and throwing their hats into the ring in this coaching search, and the Falcons have concluded multiple interviews from a list of candidates I really like. Things will speed up in the coming days, but we’ll have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to get interview updates on some of these coaches.
We’ll see if we get any concrete updates today, though.
The Falcons added an intriguing new name to their list of requested interviews on Sunday: Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce.
After Las Vegas canned Josh McDaniels, the nine year NFL linebacker and two-year Raiders linebackers coach took a 3-5, listless team and energized them, piloting them to a 5-4 record down the stretch. Players are openly stumping for him to return in Las Vegas and he seems likely to be the next Raiders head coach, but I appreciate the Falcons continuing to cast a wide net with their interview requests and take a hard look at a coach like Pierce who may not be the next hot name In the coordinator ranks or longtime head coaches, but has done some pretty remarkable work inspiring his players and getting the most out of them, if only for part of a season.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Falcons would be conducting interviews with Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and 49ers’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks today.
Jeremy Fowler at ESPN poured more fuel on the fire on SportsCenter Saturday morning, per Bleacher Report:
“I was told to focus on talented, yet underachieving teams because that’s really his wheelhouse. So, Atlanta comes to mind, they’re probably a quarterback away. There’s a belief leaguewide that there’s some interest, potentially some mutual interest. The Chargers come to mind in that regard. There’s also not a clear-cut fit right now. There’s several teams in the league that are either looking to go with a younger coach or are just looking for a new outlook. Washington is probably out. Tennessee probably out. Seattle probably out. There aren’t a lot of options right now; could be some surprises depending on what happens in the playoffs if another job opens that’s a little more high profile, Belichick could look into that. One thing is clear though, he does want to continue coaching.”
Everyone is focused on the sheer amount of smoke and flame with Belichick and Atlanta, and justifiably so, given everything we’ve heard up to this point. The interest from the Falcons—and Arthur Blank in particular—is not really in doubt. What I’m less certain about is Belichick’s level of interest, as this latest report goes no further than “potentially some mutual interest.”
If Belichick wants the job, he probably gets it. That’s the lingering question, though, and the Falcons may need to wait out the potential that the Dallas or Philadelphia jobs could spring open, as well as any interest from the Chargers and (if the checkbook opens wide enough) the Panthers. Atlanta’s level of interest will remain clear throughout, though.
All Belichick (and Harbaugh), all the time today.
This morning, NFL insider Albert Breer hopped on The Morning Shift at 92.9 The Game to talk Falcons coaching search and made it clear he views this as a two-man race between Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh. Raheem Morris was mentioned as a possible candidate if the Falcons strike out on both.
The question, as Breer notes, is whether Belichick (and Harbaugh, for that matter) would be willing to entertain having the system Atlanta has in place, where a general manager holds significant sway over personnel. Belichick was very famously undone by his awful personnel decisions in New England, a classic case of a man with dual roles being so bad at one that it derails the other, and stripping Terry Fontenot of his power (or firing him outright) to make way for Belichick the GM continues to feel like a terrible idea. If Belichick is willing to surrender some of that say, it makes the hiring more palatable, and Breer mentioned the Falcons would likely work with Belichick to ensure a succession plan similar to the one the Patriots just enacted with Jerod Mayo.
10:56 p.m. Better late than never on my end. The Falcons added Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to their requested interview list Thursday evening.
Falcons requested to interview Ravens’ DC Mike Macdonald for their HC job, per source. Falcons, Titans, Commanders, Panthers and Chargers have requested Macdonald.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2024
Macdonald has been the Ravens’ defensive coordinator for the past two seasons after a long career as a Baltimore assistant broken up by a stint as the Michigan defensive coordinator. He took a slowly declining Ravens defense that ranked 19th in points and 25th in yardage in 2021 and has turned it back into an intimidating unit, with the Ravens ranking first in the NFL in scoring defense this past season. He’s going to get a head coaching job sooner than later, given his results, and the
1:23 p.m.: Bobby Slowik has drawn a ton of justified praise for the work he did with the Texans offense and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, which made him a logical candidate for the Falcons, given their own offensive struggles and the strong possibility they’ll draft a rookie signal caller. You can add his name to the list.
Source: The Falcons have requested to interview Texans OC Bobby Slowik for their HC position.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 11, 2024
Slowik is a Kyle Shanahan disciple who worked on the San Francisco passing game for a few years, rising up the ranks until he landed the offensive coordinator gig in Houston. The passing focus would be welcome, given that Atlanta’s passing attack has gone in the toilet the past two years.
12:48 p.m.: The latest in a set of flurries is Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. After doing admirable—even heroic, in the case of the Broncos—work for Denver and Carolina while paired with terrible offenses, Evero certainly seems like a coach who might take the leap this offseason. It’s difficult not to be intrigued by the work he might do with this rising Falcons defense.
10:45 a.m.: A familiar face! Raheem Morris is interviewing for the Falcons’ head coaching job. The current Rams defensive coordinator is a hot name in coaching circles again, and previously served a variety of roles on Dan Quinn’s staff in Atlanta before taking on the interim head coach gig in the wake of Quinn’s firing and doing an admirable job.
Falcons requested permission to interview Rams’ defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, per source. Morris was the Falcons’ interim HC for 11 games in 2020. He also has gotten requests to interview for the Chargers. Commanders and Panthers HC jobs.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 11, 2024
10:23 a.m.: The Falcons are adding Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to their interview list, per Tom Pelissero.
The #Falcons put in a request to interview #Bengals OC Brian Callahan for their head coaching job, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 11, 2024
That's four for Callahan, who also has requests from Tennessee, Carolina and the #Chargers.
The work Callahan has done with the Bengals passing game, both with and without Joe Burrow, is certainly intriguing enough to warrant an interview.
9:04 a.m.: You can add Steve Wilks, the 49ers defensive coordinator, to the list of candidates for Atlanta’s opening.
The Falcons have requested permission to interview 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for their vacant head coach position, source says.— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) January 11, 2024
I’m a big fan of Wilks, who I thought did an admirable job following up the Matt Rhule disaster in Carolina and is just a good coach. I don’t know where he’d fall on the team’s list of candidates, but I’m glad he’s on it.
8:38 a.m.: You can add coveted Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to the list of interviews, per Tom Pelissero.
Johnson’s work with the Lions has been lauded, as he’s managed to maximize Jared Goff and use his playmakers extremely effectively, including rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and dynamic rookie back Jahmyr Gibbs. If the Falcons are serious about revitalizing this offense, Johnson is likely near the top of their short list of candidates.
7:50 a.m.: The Falcons have put in their first formal interviews, per NFL insider Ian Rapoport.
Anthony Weaver is an interesting name, and one I didn’t have on the candidate list I wrote up the other day. A longtime defensive line coach and former NFL defensive lineman, Weaver has been working his way up over the past three year in Baltimore’s vaunted organization after a 2020 stint as the Texans’ defensive coordinator, serving both as the defensive line coach and run game coordinator in 2021 and then the associate head coach the past two seasons. He’s young, experienced, and has been steeped in one of the league’s best franchise as both a player and coach.
Glenn is a more familiar name. A longtime NFL defensive back who spent five seasons as the Saints defensive backs coach and oversaw considerable improvement in that group, Glenn moved on to the defensive coordinator role with the Lions in 2021 and has been there since. He’s a well-regarded coach who recently ranked first in an NFLPA survey where players rated coordinators, and he has ties to Terry Fontenot from their shared days in New Orleans.
In a new roundup of rumors and reports from Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler at ESPN, the Belichick buzz (TM) continues to grow for Atlanta.
The duo say that the Falcons are expected to have significant interest if New England pushes Belichick out, which seems to be the overwhelming expectation at the moment, and that “people close to” the longtime Patriots coach think he’d have interest in Atlanta’s opening.
Fowler also speculates that the Falcons could get in on Jim Harbaugh, something we haven’t really heard anything concrete about to this point, and both riff on the idea that Terry Fontenot (the Falcons “value him,” per Fowler) might want to interview Aaron Glenn. The Lions defensive coordinator overlapped with Fontenot in New Orleans and is getting interviews around the league based on his work for the Detroit defense, as well as his reputation as an effective players’ coach.
The Athletic’s Josh Kendall has a shortlist of potential candidates for the Falcons:
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik all are expected to receive at least passing interest from the Falcons.
This is in the wake of The Athletic’s Mike Sando predicting that BIll Belichick will end up coaching the Falcons, something league executives seem to anticipate. The firing of Mike Vrabel by the Titans today should cause the Falcons to check in on Vrabel, but with Vrabel strongly linked to the Patriots job should it come open, it seems likely the Falcons will get their crack at Belichick.
Again, I have mixed feelings about that. It does appear the Falcons are fully prepared to go hard after Belichick, regardless.
Bill Belichick continues to be a hot name linked to Atlanta’s coaching search. NFL insiders have been floating that in recent days even before Arthur Smith was officially out, and that’s continuing now that he’s gone. Dianna Russini is the latest to make that link.
Bill Belichick is still the head coach in New England but the Atlanta Falcons are a team to watch if Belichick is available. They are interested, per sources.— Dianna Russini (@DMRussini) January 8, 2024
Why Belichick? He’s the most decorated coach in NFL history, Arthur Blank has seen him pile up wins against Atlanta, and it would be a move intended to make the Falcons a winner immediately. Whether that would actually happen remains to be seen—I have my doubts about Belichick’s ability to get the job done at this stage of his career—but that has to be the thinking.