Mike Nolan is usually viewed as a coach that runs the 3-4 defense. But the Atlanta Falcons are going to be sticking with the 4-3.
In a conference call with the Atlanta media Wednesday, Nolan, who was hired Tuesday as the team's defensive coordinator, made it a point to clarify that perception is not reality. He said he’s been an NFL coordinator for 14 seasons. He said, in seven of those seasons, he’s run the 3-4 and has run the 4-3 the other seven seasons. He also pointed out that he’s used elements of both schemes simultaneously.
“It’s my philosophy that you build your scheme around the players, not the other way around,’’ Nolan said. “What has been built there, I think is a very solid foundation on a 4-3 defense.’’
Nolan, who ran the 3-4 as defensive coordinator in Miami the last two seasons, said sticking with the 4-3 was not an order handed down by coach Mike Smith as he interviewed for the job. Nolan said he and Smith watched film together of Atlanta’s defense and he asked what Smith’s vision going forward was.
“Mike’s response was very honest and frank,’’ Nolan said. “He said, "Look, we’ve built to this 4-3 and this is what we are and this is what we look like, but I want you to look at it as well."
Nolan said Smith was open to all ideas as they talked, but the two agreed a dramatic change in scheme wasn't needed.
“I think Mike’s open-minded about that, but I do believe that the vision for them and the target they’ve been hitting is one that we want to stay consistent and go forward in that respect,’’ Nolan said. “If I felt like it could be easily tweaked to go to something else because I thought it would be better, then I would obviously suggest it. But, as it is, I think the track they’ve been on is good."
Nolan said he had other opportunities as a defensive coordinator elsewhere. It was reported he was a possible candidate for the job in New Orleans. But Nolan said his familiarity with Smith (the two worked together in Baltimore) was a selling point.
“To me, it just was a good fit," Nolan said. “More than anything, I want to win. The Falcons have been doing a good job of that. They haven’t reached their ultimate goal yet. But everybody’s in pursuit of that and only one team gets to get it at the end. But this is a football team that’s very close. Hopefully, I can add to that and be a part of that.’’