The Atlanta Falcons have made some changes on their defensive staff. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox won’t be returning, according to Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. Secondary coach Marquand Manuel is a candidate to take over as the team’s defensive coordinator, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.
The moves come after the Falcons blew a historic 25-point lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. The Falcons defense gave up 31 straight points, but Marvez indicates the move may have been coming regardless of the outcome.
Smith was in his second season with the Falcons after spending four seasons as the linebackers coach for the Denver Broncos from 2011-2014. Marvez did note that Smith could shift to another position, but details were not known.
The Falcons had improved defensively from Smith’s first season as defensive coordinator, as a handful of personnel changes were made on the field. Midway through the 2016 season, head coach Dan Quinn took over the defensive play calling. After the switch, the defense showed dramatic improvement over the rest of the regular season, and into the postseason.
Smith is also given credit when it came to the improvement of Vic Beasley.
“People were all over him last year, saying ‘he’s a bust, he’s a bust,”’ Smith told ESPN. “He said at the end of the year he was tired of answering all these questions, and I said, ‘Well, let’s do something about it.’”
Cox had spent three years with the Falcons, after spending a pair with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he coached their defensive line, and serving as their pass rush specialist. He also had coaching experience with the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets following his NFL career as a linebacker.
The changes to the defensive staff come as the team welcomes Steve Sarkisian to replace Kyle Shanahan as the team’s offensive coordinator.