The Arizona Cardinals are interested in bringing in former San Francisco 49ers head coach and current defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons Mike Nolan, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Nolan is interviewing for the same position he currently holds with Atlanta, which isn't necessarily surprising but ... also kind of surprising, isn't it?
Nolan, who flamed out as a head coach in San Francisco -- he went 18-37 leading the 49ers and 2-6 against Arizona, for the record -- hasn't been in charge of particularly effective defenses since he was fired in 2008. Nolan was the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2009, the Miami Dolphins in 2010 and 2011, and has been with the Falcons since.
With the Broncos, Nolan actually got things started quite well. He had the Broncos playing some of the best defense they've played in a long time through the first six games of the season. Then the Broncos won just two games the rest of the season and Nolan and the Broncos mutually agreed to part ways. In Miami, he once again started very strong, leading the Dolphins to a top 10 defense. They wound up regressing the next year though, falling to the middle of the pack.
In Atlanta, it hasn't been great. They were bad in 2012, even worse in 2013 and the worst in the league this past season. The Falcons allowed the most yards per game, most yards per play and most rushing touchdowns in the league. They were just awful, which is why it's kind of ... surprising to see the Cardinals looking to interview him now.
We can probably joke all day about Nolan and how bad he was in San Francisco (the big sub defense will never leave us, truly), but the fact is that Arizona would be downgrading significantly going from Todd Bowles to Nolan.
Arizona ranked fifth in the league in points allowed this past season, allowing just 18.7 points per game. They trailed only the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. It was definitely a bend-but-don't-break scheme, and it usually didn't break. They were very good despite allowing chunks of yardage, and came up with the big stops when they needed them most.
The Cardinals did some amazing things this season. All of them were completely unexpected, despite the fact that they were essentially just as good a season ago. Nobody really saw it coming, and once they were winning, everyone assumed they were going to stop given the revolving door that was the quarterback position and massive struggles on offense. But the defense, led by Bowles, held things together.
Bruce Arians is looking like a very capable coach, and I doubt Arizona's defense would regress significantly regardless of who is brought in. But I'm assuming there's a whole lot of people around here who would be pretty happy to see Nolan hired by the Cardinals.
Whatever the case, that's probably a long way off. Arizona has only been linked to Nolan and former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. It's unclear if LeBeau would be interviewing for a defensive coordinator spot, or more of a consultant type of role. Whoever winds up taking the job, they've got big shoes to fill.