While we’re on the topic of contract extensions -- the Atlanta Falcons announced new deals for team president Rich McKay, general manger Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith on Monday – there was at least one other member of the staff who received a new contract after the season.
Although the team never confirmed it, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, of course, received a new two-year deal. Nolan acknowledged it during last week’s Senior Bowl.
"For sure I’m excited about it,’’ Nolan said. "I didn’t have a contract, so something had to happen. So that was kind of it.’’
Since Nolan said his contract expired at the end of the 2013 season, it means he is now signed through 2015. In other words, his contract runs concurrent with Smith’s, who received a one-year extension with one year left on the deal he signed in 2011.
Nolan’s defense underachieved this past season, in large part due to injury and inexperience. The Falcons lost defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann to a season-ending Achilles injury and lost linebacker and team leader Sean Weatherspoon for a large chunk of games due to a Lisfranc foot sprain. By season’s end, Nolan was working with four regular rookie starters: cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu.
The Falcons finished tied for 27th in total defense, 25th sacks per pass play, 31st in rushing defense and dead last in third-down defense.
Through it all, the players never lost faith in Nolan and his scheme.
"Coach Nolan is a real good defensive coordinator,’’ Alford said. "Once I heard about [the new contract], I was happy. Coach Nolan is a really good guy. I learned a lot of stuff from Coach Nolan. He knows a lot about defense. And I think the defense can play well around Coach Nolan.’’
We’ll see how Nolan fares in 2014 with a full complement of players and likely upgrades at key positions.