The Falcons have hired former Chicago Bears assistant coach Michael Pitre as the running backs coach in Atlanta. Pitre held the same position in Chicago in 2021.
Atlanta went searching for a running backs coach this offseason when Desmond Kitchings left to become the offensive coordinator for Virginia at the end of the 2021 season.
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Last season was Pitre's first full season coaching in the NFL. Previously, Pitre entered the league as a scouting intern with New England in 2009. Later in 2017, he was a member of the Kansas City Chief's Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship coaching program. Despite only one full season coaching in the league, Pitre has been coaching at the collegiate level for more than a decade prior to making the jump to the NFL last year.
Most notable was Pitre's three-year stint at Oregon State from 2018 to 2020. There, Pitre helped coach the Oregon State rushing attack to an average of 165.8 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry through his three seasons as the running backs coach. Pitre also spent time as the running backs coach at Montana State from 2014 to 2017, and worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Colorado from 2012 to 2013.
Pitre takes over a Falcons position group that holds more questions than answers at this point in the offseason. The Falcons ended the season with Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis and Qadree Ollison taking on the brunt of the work in the run game. Of the three, Patterson was the most productive with 618 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and an averaged four yards a carry. However, there's no guarantee that Patterson will be back in 2022.
The offensive weapon only signed a one-year deal with the Falcons last offseason. Though Patterson has made it clear he'd like to stay in Atlanta, the Falcons still have to be mindful of their salary cap situation. Patterson would be a top Falcons free agent to potentially resign this offseason, but the question remains if the Falcons have the means to resign him with his market value increasing. Ollison is also only on a one-year deal and there's no guarantee he'll be back in Atlanta, either, even after impressing coaches down the stretch of the season.
As for Davis, he signed a two-year contract in 2021, so he has another year in Atlanta if the Falcons choose to keep him around. He will earn a base salary of $2.5 million, and will carry a cap hit of $3.25 million and a dead cap value of $750,000 per Spotrac.
There's a chance the Falcons could look to find a long-term solution at running back through the 2022 Draft, but perhaps not if they decide to keep Patterson and Davis in Atlanta in 2022. Last season, the Falcons ran for 100-plus yards in six games while averaging 3.7 yards a carry. They ranked 15th in the league in rushing attack. Meanwhile, Pitre and the Bears finished the season with the second best rushing attack in the league.