NFC Notes: Falcons, Ryan Nielsen, Panthers, Saints, Sean Payton


Falcons HC Arthur Smith said new DC Ryan Nielsen is a great fit for the team and has everything that they’re looking for in a coordinator.

Ryan is a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple of years, [and] we have a lot of familiarities. Dwayne Ledford worked with him at N.C. State, [football analyst] Shawn Flaherty has, Terry has in New Orleans so we got a good feel for who he is day-to-day as a person. And then professionally, he’s been a pretty good adversary. I’ve got a lot of respect and I love the plan he has and the way we want to implement things, continue to develop our own guys and what we’re going to do this offseason, so it was a really right fit for us and he’s a heck of a coach.

Nielsen demonstrated the ability to not only develop premier talent in the past but was able to articulate his long-term plan to Smith.

Ryan is a big-picture guy,” Smith said. “I was impressed. Everybody’s got great ideas and plans, but how are you going to implement that, I really liked his plan as we continue to build this staff. We’re excited about it. Excited about the future and what we’re building.

Smith plans to take suggestions from the team’s staff for their vacancies on the defensive side of the ball, but at the end of the day said that he would hold the trump card.

Ultimately, I have to feel good about anybody that’s on our staff,” Smith said. “Offense, defense, special teams. It’s the Atlanta Falcons. It’s our staff, so I’ll take suggestions but at the end of the day, I’ll make that call.


Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said he came away impressed by how new HC Frank Reich interviewed for his position and everything added up to him being the best candidate.

“Just getting to know him right now—but the way he interviewed, what he stands for, all of his character, principles, he’s off the charts,” Fitterer said, via PanthersWire. “Everyone that we talked to for references was over the top about him—as a person as well as a football coach. And, ya know, obviously the quarterback background—all those things added up to a guy that is the right fit for us.”

When asked if it’s possible to sign a quarterback for Reich’s offense, Fitterer responded that they still have Matt Corral, P.J. Walker, and Sam Darnold, and must make a decision on how to progress at the position. 

“You have to remember what we do have on the roster,” Fitterer said. “We drafted Matt Corral last year. PJ [Walker] is still on our roster. Sam Darnold actually played well for us at times this year. He’s got a ton of talent. He’s a free agent, so we’ll have to make some decisions there.”

Fitterer continued that they must be “very much aligned” with Reich at quarterback.

“But, yes, we do have to be very much aligned. What are we looking for? What type of offense are we gonna run? Then, I know Frank and his staff will be able to adapt to that player’s traits. But there is a certain threshold we’ll want from a physical standpoint.”


Broncos HC Sean Payton spoke about the timing that went into his hiring in Denver, which was largely due to the compensation being discussed between the Broncos and the Saints.

“There was a complexity to my hiring, obviously, that involved compensation to the Saints,” Payton said on the Broncos’ YouTube. “So that made that a little bit longer and I’m really thankful for George Paton and Mickey Loomis. Those guys were on the phone for days working out compensation that allowed this to happen. That made it uniquely different. Our plan is to win. And that process starts today.”

  • Chris Low of ESPN reports that the Saints are hiring Alabama defensive analyst Todd Grantham as an assistant coach.
  • Grantham recently interviewed for Alabama’s defensive coordinator job. 

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