Defensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Nolan was named the Falcons defensive coordinator on January 17, 2012. One of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL, Nolan brings 14 years of experience as a coordinator and has spent a total of 25 years in the NFL coaching ranks. The Falcons mark the seventh team he has been a coordinator for over his coaching career: Miami (2010-11), Denver (2009), Baltimore (2002-04), the New York Jets (2000), Washington (1997-99) and the New York Giants (1993-96).
Nolan joins Atlanta after spending the last two seasons as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator. In 2011, the Dolphins boasted the third best run defense in the NFL, allowing just 95.6 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. His defense also collared 41 sacks, which tied for 10th in the League and allowed the sixth fewest points per game at 19.6. The Dolphins also ranked seventh in the third-down percentage (33.8) and sixth in red zone defense, holding opponents to a 44.2 touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.
In 2010, Nolan’s defense ranked among the league’s top ten in overall defense (6th, 309.3 ypg), pass defense (8th, 209.3 ypg) and run defense (7th, 100.1 ypg). The Dolphins defense was one of just five units in the NFL to accomplish that feat.
Prior to joining the Dolphins, Nolan served as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Under his tutelage in 2009, Denver’s team defense improved to seventh overall in the NFL after a 29th place finish in 2008. Denver’s pass defense was equally impressive, finishing third overall in the NFL, allowing 186.3 yards per game.
Prior to his stint with the Broncos, Nolan served as the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach from 2005-08, following in the footsteps of his father, Dick, who coached that club for eight seasons from 1968-75 and had an 11-year NFL head coaching career. The 49ers were one of the NFL’s most consistent teams in stopping the run during Nolan’s four years with the club, ranking fourth in the league in yards per carry allowed (3.9) during that period. Offensively, San Francisco’s 4.3-yard rushing average over Nolan’s four years was the eighth-best mark in the NFL.
Nolan served three years as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator from 2002-04 before becoming the 49ers head coach. His group tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (106) while ranking fifth in the league in both points per game allowed (18.8) and third down percentage (34.7). Five Baltimore defenders earned a total of nine trips to the Pro Bowl, and Nolan instructed back-to-back AP NFL Defensive Players of the Year in Ray Lewis (2003) and Ed Reed (2004). After spending his first year (2001) in Baltimore as wide receivers coach, Nolan replaced Marvin Lewis as the club’s defensive coordinator in 2002. He coached one of the league’s youngest defenses in 2002, helping the Ravens post a franchise record and an AFC-high 25 interceptions while placing sixth in the league in opponent passer rating (73.4).
Nolan became the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinator in 1993 when the Giants hired him for that position at age 35. He spent eight consecutive seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Giants (1993-96), Redskins (1997-99) and Jets (2000). In his first year as a defensive coordinator with the Giants in 1993, Nolan’s defense allowed an NFL low 12.8 points per game for the best mark by the club in 44 seasons.
Nolan’s NFL coaching career began with the Broncos in 1987 as their special teams/linebackers coach, a position he held with the club through the 1992 campaign. He was a part of three teams that won the AFC West and helped the Broncos reach the Super Bowl during the 1987 (XXII) and ’89 (XXIV) seasons.
Following a stint in the Broncos’ 1981 training camp as a defensive back, Nolan began his coaching career as a graduate assistant that year at his alma mater, the University of Oregon.
He was a three year starter at safety for the Ducks after beginning his collegiate playing career as a walk-on. Nolan landed his first full-time coaching job at Stanford University as its linebackers/ defensive backs coach in 1982 and worked there for two years before serving in the same capacity at Rice University from 1984-85.
He spent 1986 as the linebackers coach for Louisiana State University before moving into the NFL coaching ranks with the Broncos in 1987.
A native of Baltimore, Nolan and his wife, Kathy, have four children: Michael, Christopher, Laura and Jennifer.