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Former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan joins Saints as assistant coach

METAIRIE, La. -- Mike Nolan will follow in his father's footsteps as a coach for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints have hired the former San Francisco 49ers head coach and longtime former NFL defensive coordinator. Also, the new image on Nolan's Twitter avatar is of the Saints logo.

He will serve as linebackers coach, since the Saints have a vacancy there after firing LB coaches Joe Vitt and James Willis earlier this month.

Nolan's father, Dick Nolan, was the Saints' head coach from 1978 to 1980.

Mike Nolan last served as a linebackers coach with the San Diego Chargers in 2015 before spending the past year as an analyst for both SiriusXM and the NFL Network.

Before that, Nolan spent three years as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014. His tenure in Atlanta began with a splash (the Falcons went 13-3 in 2012 and had the NFL's No. 5-ranked scoring defense). But it ended with a fizzle (the Falcons ranked 32nd in yards allowed in 2014).

Nolan was the 49ers' head coach from 2005 to 2008, compiling an 18-37 record before being fired midway through the 2008 season.

He has also served as defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Washington Redskins and New York Giants during 35 years as an assistant in the NFL and college ranks.

The Saints have several vacancies to fill on their coaching staff after firing Vitt, Willis, defensive line coach Bill Johnson, special-teams coordinator Greg McMahon and special-teams assistant Stan Kwan. The Saints also lost wide receivers coach John Morton to the New York Jets' offensive coordinator job, as ESPN reported Sunday.

The Saints' defense showed signs of progress during the 2016 season in Dennis Allen's first full year as the defensive coordinator. But the Saints finished 7-9 for the third straight year. So head coach Sean Payton decided to fire Vitt and Johnson -- two longtime assistants who helped the team win a Super Bowl in 2009 -- because he felt an injection of new ideas was needed.

The Saints have ranked last in the NFL in total defense since 2007, and they have set NFL records for most yards allowed in a season (in 2012), most touchdown passes allowed in a season (2015) and highest opponents' passer rating in a season (2015).