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Transcript: Mike Nolan Conference Call


**On whether he will change the Falcons' defensive scheme from 4-3 to 3-4:

**I believe you build your scheme around the players, not the other way around, and what has been built there I think is a very solid foundation on a 4-3 defense. In my 25 years in the NFL, for 14 years I've been a coordinator. Seven of those have been in 4-3 and seven of them have been in a 3-4. I'm very familiar with both. As a matter of fact, the 3-4, when I've been in that, I've frequently used the 4-3 as part of it, so it's not unfamiliar to me. Like I said, most importantly, I believe you build your scheme around your players and it would occur to me that's what's best for that football team, so I'm looking forward to that.

**On what he knows about the Falcons and the current personnel:

**Well, I have limited knowledge as far as film. I've looked at some, but I know they have a solid group. Overall, it's an outstanding football team. Obviously, they've been in the playoffs the last three out of four years and have a very good quarterback, so as a group I think Mike (Smith) and Thomas (Dimitroff) have both done an outstanding job of putting together a roster and I'm just excited to be a part of it. Hopefully, I can add something to the defensive side.

**On working with Mike Smith in the past:

**Mike and I did work together. That was at Baltimore. The first year I went to the Baltimore Ravens, I was the wide receivers coach and Mike was on defense as the defensive assistant. The next year, Marvin (Lewis) left and went to the Redskins. Anyhow, I became the defensive coordinator and Mike moved up as linebacker coach. I think we were together one year and then he got the coordinator's job at Jacksonville and left, so Mike and I actually were on the same side of the ball one year, and that was in 2002 I believe. I've always had tremendous respect for Mike. I think he's an outstanding coach. He's coached some very good players. Prior to him going to Jacksonville, obviously he coached Ray Lewis (in Baltimore) for a year. Personally, I've got a lot of respect for Mike. He gets a lot out of his players. I think he's very good with them. He's an outstanding person. Since then, we've just stayed in contact and usually when you coach with someone, you stay in contact for a while. We just remained friends and our relationship has been there over the years, so now it's an opportunity to go work with Mike. But as far as working for Mike, I'm looking forward to it. Like I said, I think he's done an outstanding job and I'm excited to be in Atlanta and be a part of it.

**On whether his relationship with Smith brought him to Atlanta:

**It was the whole picture. Obviously, knowing Mike has a lot to do with it, but I've also known Thomas for a number of years, but not nearly as well as I've known Mike. But I've been an acquaintance of Thomas' for about the last 15 years or so. The things that impress me is it's an outstanding football team. From (owner & chairman) Arthur (Blank) all the way down, they've put together a great group. They have some very explosive players on the football team. The big picture to me looked very good and it still does, so that had a lot to do with it. Atlanta's an outstanding town. I've never lived there, but I have some close friends who live there and we've visited over the years. To me, it just was a good fit. More than anything else, I want to win and that's what the Falcons have been doing. They haven't reached their ultimate goal quite yet, but at the same time, everybody's in pursuit of that and only one team gets to get it at the end, but this is a football team in my opinion that's very close. Like I said earlier, I hope I can add something to it and be a part of that.

**On the Falcons' secondary and his philosophy:

**I haven't had a chance to look over all the players, so I can't comment too much on an individual basis, but as a whole, I will say this: I think the secondary is one of the most important areas today, more than it was 15, 20 years ago just because of the quarterback play nowadays. There's probably more good quarterbacks in the league now than there's ever been, and naturally, outside of pass rush, the secondary is where the quarterback attacks you the most, so it's really important to have a good secondary. But I do know this: I'm kind of familiar with some of the guys. It's a solid group. But in order to play well, it takes 11 guys, so you can't put it all on one position. All I can say really is that it's a vital part of success in nowadays football, as you're all well aware of. I think there was three or four quarterbacks that went over 5,000 yards and there's all kinds of offensive production in that area, so I think there are people who will also, going forward, put a lot more emphasis on having (a better secondary). Typically, everyone talks about having four starting DBs, but I think the future really looks like it's going to be five starting DBs if these quarterbacks keep doing what they're doing.

**On whether he'll be used to evaluate offensive talent, as well:

**I'll put it this way: If someone asks me, I'll give my opinion on the other side, but otherwise that's not my area.

**On whether there are any free agents he had in Miami that he'd like to have in Atlanta:

**There are some players that might be available, and I'd rather not get into who they are at this time because I don't think it'll help us or them, but if Thomas wants to know, I'll be happy to suggest a few guys or at least give my opinion on what I thought of the players that were there. Typically, that's what guys will do anyway. They'll at least ask to get a feel if there's been any kind of coaching change or something like that, to get your take on how good the player can be and what his positives and negatives are. If Thomas wants to know about some of them and wants to pursue some of them, then I'd be more than happy to help him out with that or just give my opinion.

**On whether it's possible for defenses to get a winning edge:

**It's good for the league when they adjust the rules so that it does become a little more fair to the offense because people like to see points. Obviously, we're always trying to improve the game. You want everyone you can watching the game. I think that's one of the great things about basketball, for example. There's obviously scoring back and forth and back and forth the whole time, so it's an exciting game for people, and I think football and the people who are in charge of the league have tried to do some of that, even with the chuck rule on the wide receivers. After 5 yards, you can't touch him, whereas back years ago, you could do that and that was really hard on completing passes because if you were hitting guys way down the field, it was much more difficult for a receiver to get open for the quarterback, so they've changed that rule. They've changed rules on the quarterback, as you well know. There's actually some calls now where you think, "My goodness, how could they really call that?" But it keeps the play alive and it keeps the ball in the offense's hands, so I think not only have rules made it difficult on the defense, but they've also allowed drives to stay alive. As we've all see, there's been penalties called where the offense doesn't give the ball up any longer. They get a new series. It goes from a third down and 10 to a first down, not because of a completing but possibly because of an illegal chuck. It's fair for everyone. Everybody faces the same difficulties and consequences, whether it's defense or offense, so it's not like it's become unfair. That's just the way the game has moved. I think you have to work within the rules rather than complain about them because they're not going to change them to satisfy the defense. Like I said, that doesn't really bother me because it's fair for everyone.

**On what he considers to be his skill set:

**I think it really starts with what your philosophy is, and the thing I've prided myself in over the years is I've been very fortunate to be with some outstanding coaches and it's no different than coming here in Miami. The coaches I worked with have made me better. I hope I've made them better, and over my years in the NFL, I would say that one thing is, I believe you build your schemes around your players, not the other way around. From a philosophical standpoint or skill set standpoint, I'd like to think that I've been able to, along with the guys I've coached with, do what's best for the players and in turn for the team, whether that's 3-4, 4-3, whether that's more blitzes or less blitzes. Some players do that well and some don't. What I mean by that is some blitz well, some don't, some are better suited for a lot of different things. Outside of that, I believe I'm extremely passionate about what I do. I think the best job in football is coordinating. I was a head coach before, as you're well aware, and there's a lot of thrill in that. But believe me, when you get to put your hands on players and coach them and teach them and see them have success and then get to call plays and all that, that's a great job and that's what I'll be doing. I would say my set is that I'm passionate about what I do and I like to be able to put good players in the right spots so that they can be passionate and play well.

**On whether he was told that the Falcons would remain a 4-3 team:

**When Mike and I watched film, he said, "Here's what we're up to. Here's what we are," but as we talked, he said, "What do you see it looking like?" Because I was curious. That was the first thing I said to Mike was, "What is your vision for this group?" and Mike's response was very honest and frank, and he said, "Look, we've built to this 4-3 and this is what we are and this is what we look like, but I want you to look at it as well." He said when we were watching film together, "I can see the wheels turning in your head right now," which they are, because when I'm watching it, I'm trying to see what we're able to do, but he at no time said, "Hey, if you want this, this is what we've got to do." I think Mike's open-minded about that, but I do believe that the vision for them and the target they've been hitting is one that we want to stay consistent with and go forward in that respect. I'll say this: If I felt like it could be easily tweaked to go to something else because I thought it would be better, then I would obviously suggest it. But as it is, I think the track they've been on is a good one. Like I said, 4-3/3-4 to me is irrelevant. Well, I should say it's very relevant as long as you're doing what your players allow you to do.

**On whether he's looking for three-down players:

**The more three-down players you can get, the better. There's no question about that. As a matter of fact, usually when guys are talking about who you draft, it's hard for teams to draft a two-down player, in my opinion, in the real high first round. You've got to try to get as many three-down guys as you can, but sometimes you don't, and sometimes it takes years for those guys to develop into a three-down player. But I think that's important. I'll tell you the thing that's affect that more than anything else, to be honest with you, is the way the offenses are tempoing the game, you can't get that guy on the field and off the field in time without getting a penalty if you're not careful. That might sound a little crazy, but you guys have all watched the game. When an offense is in a hurry-up mode, you can't send a lot of guys on and off the field, so you need as many three-down players as you can get, otherwise you just bite the bullet and just leave them out there and say we can't sacrifice having a 5-yard penalty because we have too many guys on the field or not enough and give up a touchdown. To me, that's the biggest effect of three-down players, more so than who's the better player.

**On his timetable for arriving in Atlanta and his first steps:

**I plan on getting up there on Thursday and I know there's some things that Mike's going to do with the staff prior the Senior Bowl and as an organization that they do, and so I'm hoping to get up there and be a part of those. I won't be able to participate much, but at least I'll be able to listen because there will be a lot of roster talk, so I'm looking forward to doing that this weekend. Next week, we go to the Senior Bowl. After that, we get into our systems analysis and things like that on both sides of the ball, and defensively, what I hope to do is start right away, watching all the tape from what (the Falcons) did this past year so I can get to know the staff in place and they can get to know me, and we'll watch all of what they did before we ever go into what we might do next, because there will be a lot of things we'll want to carry over, but I want to talk the language. That's the best way to get to know people and figure out not only the players, but get to know the coaches, which is first and foremost before we do anything else.

**On what the process is for sitting down with each player:

**It doesn't usually happen. Actually, this year it's going to be much later because of the OTAs and all those things are later, but as guys sprinkle in over the next months, a lot of times they'll want to come in and introduce themselves, so you get a chance to meet them but it's not like one set meeting. Back in the past, you could do it the first of April, you'd have a big team meeting, but even with the way it was before, I think often guys sprinkle in and out. Atlanta's a place where a lot of players live, so I'd imagine a lot of our football team lives in town. But I would expect, as the next few months go along, that guys will trickle in and, if nothing else, just introduce themselves, say hello and that's kind of how it all starts.

**On his philosophy on rushing the passer:

**Pass defense and rushing the passer takes 11 guys. Whether it's run or pass, this is the ultimate team sport. If you've got great coverage, you're going to have a better pass rush because the quarterback is going to hold the ball longer. Just like if you've got a great pass rush, you don't have to cover them as long on the backend. Some of that is player-related and some of that is scheme-related, so that's what you really try to do. You want to get the best players you can on the field, and that's first and foremost because the game is about the players. But the second thing is the scheme you use, whether it's a pressure or not, it's the quarterback you play. You play some quarterbacks different than other quarterbacks. You're going to play Cam Newton a lot different than you're going to play Drew Brees or Tom Brady, for example. So there's really a lot that goes into the pass rush and pass coverage, but they're so tied together and the success of either one is so tied together, it's not as easy as saying, "Hey, look, we need to get a bunch of pass rushers so we're good at it." If you disrespect the backend, those pass rushers are going to get worn out thinking, "My God, can you guys just hold them. If you can cover them for a second, we can get to him." It works together and that's how I've always seen it. I'll say this: I'd rather have 10 guys get four sacks than only four guys getting 10 each, because it's a lot more difficult for an offense if they've got to look at your entire defense and say, "We've got to block them all, guys." That's a real stress for an offense and a real stress for a quarterback, so it's a collective deal if you're going to be good in any aspect of the game — pass rush, pass coverage, even run defense.

**On whether he'll be looking for a nose-tackle type of player:

**I don't think we'll be looking for that necessarily. I have not spoken to Thomas about something like that. We're not trying to move this to a 3-4. I'll flat out say that. We're trying to make these 11 guys as good as we can, and whatever Thomas and Mike feel the best way to do that is, then that's what we'll do but if something like that were to occur, it would come from the top's decision before it would come from Mike Nolan's decision. Let's put it this way: If Thomas felt like there is one heck of a player staring us right in the face and he says, "Look, I'd love to have him on our team but I don't know how we're going to use him," then I think Thomas would say, "Hey, Mike. If I brought this player in, how would you use this guy because I really think he's a good player?" I'd have to give him an answer that would suffice then. If it happened to be (nose tackle), then that decision would have to be made and we'd get him in there the best way that we can.

**On whether the current defensive staff will stay in place:

**As you know, that's Mike's area, but it was my understanding that Mike would like to keep everybody and keep the staff in tact.

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