This is a huge blow to the Falcons. VanGorder has been the defensive coordinator in Atlanta since Mike Smith and his staff came on in 2008.
VanGorder's defense in Atlanta has steadily improved since he took over, and finally seemed to reach it's peak in 2011. The Falcons' defense finished 12th overall in 2011 and carried the team to some victories throughout the season.
The Falcons' defense was a major factor this season and ended up being a strength towards the end of the season. Even in the playoff game, the Falcons' defense did relatively well against a high-powered Giants' offense.
The loss of VanGorder was something that had been discussed in recent weeks, but this is certainly a surprise, coming only a day after the Falcons' loss to the Giants.
Finding a replacement becomes the obvious number one priority for the Falcons this offseason. This team is already dealing with the loss of their first-round playoff game for the third time in four years. They have now lost their defensive coordinator and could likely lose some key players in free agency.
The Falcons will have a difficult time replacing VanGorder this offseason and may have some trouble getting someone that will be able to have immediate success. It will be a major blow to young players like Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton and William Moore to have to learn a completely different system after having breakout years.
This spells regression for many of the young, talented players on the Atlanta defensive.
This is a Falcons team that may be falling apart before our eyes, and VanGorder leaving the team may be the first sign of things to come.