Atlanta Falcons: 4 Potential Candidates for Defensive Coordinator in 2015
With Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likely to be hired as the new Atlanta Falcons coach—according to various reports from around the league, including this one from NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Marc Sessler)—the question of who his defensive coordinator is going to be comes into play. The Falcons need someone who will have an aggressive mindset and knows how to put guys in the right position to succeed.
There are quite a few options around the league that could make a ton of sense in Atlanta, and four of them would run similar schemes to what Quinn has run in Seattle. There are also previous ties to some, but others would be outside hires that just seem to make sense based on how talented the coach is.
One candidate who could make the jump to the Falcons as either a linebackers coach or a defensive coordinator is Richard Smith. He's done a great job developing talent among the linebacker corps that the Denver Broncos have had for the past few years.
Guys like Wesley Woodyard and Steven Johnson turned into solid inside linebackers after his guidance despite being undrafted college free agents. He's also been able to maximize the talents of Von Miller. Smith was the linebackers coach in 2009 and 2010 for the Carolina Panthers when they had some very good linebackers as well.
His previous experience as a defensive coordinator wasn't all roses in Houston or Miami, though. He may not be an ideal candidate for that role unless he's essentially Dan Quinn's puppet. Quinn worked in Miami with Smith back in 2005 for Quinn's first NFL job as a defensive line coach.
Dan Quinn and Jim Schwartz have zero ties to each other. That's why they would be a great combination running a defense together. Sometimes, the best way to fix a defense is to gather various opinions and combine them into a scheme that takes advantage of each player's best talents.
Schwartz is arguably a top-five coordinator in the NFL. The issue that he might have is swallowing his pride after being a head coach and getting let go from Buffalo to come to a team like Atlanta that would need him to completely fix the defense.
Schwartz runs an attacking 4-3 scheme that could benefit the Falcons with his ability to get the most out of his linebackers and defensive linemen. Atlanta will still have a talent deficit in those units and could use as much help there as possible.
Ken Norton Jr.
Linebackers have been a huge issue for the Falcons over the past two seasons due to Sean Weatherspoon not staying healthy and the rest of the linebackers performing as average players at best. Ken Norton Jr. is one of those situations where a top NFL player turned into a top NFL coach.
Norton has been able to develop a ton of talent at linebacker, including many mid- to late-round picks that should have never been winning Super Bowl MVP awards, such as Malcolm Smith did last season. Atlanta could be the perfect opportunity for him to jump up the ranks.
Norton played for the San Francisco 49ers in their mid-1990s heyday and eventually worked for Pete Carroll at Southern California. The list of linebackers he developed there includes Lofa Tatupu, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews III, Keith Rivers and Kaluka Maiava.
If there's anyone who makes the most sense to be the new Falcons defensive coordinator, it's Rocky Seto. He was Pete Carroll's defensive coordinator at Southern California for the 2009 season and has been the Seahawks defensive passing game coordinator for the past six seasons.
That position is essentially a defensive coordinator's top assistant, and it makes him somewhat of a defensive coordinator-in-waiting. However, after Gus Bradley left in 2013, the role of defensive coordinator was given to Quinn instead of Seto.
Quinn and Seto have been a great pair working together in Seattle and could be better if given more control of the defense in Atlanta. The Falcons have talent on defense that could be utilized; they just need the coaching to make it all work.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats, ESPN.com, CFBStats or NFL.com. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, college football, the NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.