Falcons land Mike Nolan as DC

The Atlanta Falcons have hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, the team just announced.

This is a very strong hire by Atlanta coach Mike Smith. Nolan’s a former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He spent the last two seasons as Miami’s defensive coordinator. He also previously worked as defensive coordinator for the Redskins, Jets, Ravens, Giants and Broncos.

I think it’s fair to say Nolan is an upgrade over former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who left to become defensive coordinator at Auburn. Through most of Smith’s tenure, VanGorder’s defenses weren’t great, although the Falcons improved somewhat on that side of the ball in 2011.

Nolan has some good talent to work with in linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, cornerback Dunta Robinson and defensive tackles Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux. The Falcons also have to make decisions on if they want to re-sign defensive end John Abraham, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and cornerback Brent Grimes.

This also is a victory in the NFC South for the Falcons. New Orleans reportedly had some interest in Nolan and at least one of the candidates who has interviewed for the Tampa Bay job had indicated he thought he could make Nolan part of the package.