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Chargers Hire Mike Nolan to Coach Linebackers
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San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy hired former Atlanta Falcons Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan to be the team’s new linebackers coach, the team announced Thursday.
“Mike is a tremendous coach with a wealth of experience and he’ll be a great addition to our coaching staff,” said McCoy. “I’ve known him for many years having coached both with him and against him and it’s great to have him here with us with the Chargers.”
Nolan has an impressive resume that features 28 years of coaching experience in the NFL, including four seasons as an NFL head coach (San Francisco, 2005-08) and 17 seasons as a defensive coordinator. A collegiate safety at the University of Oregon, Nolan began his coaching career as a linebackers coach on both the collegiate and professional levels.
Nolan was the Falcons’ defensive coordinator from 2012-14. He made an immediate impact in his first season in Atlanta as the Falcons recorded an NFC-best 13-3 record and earned the NFC’s number-one seed in the playoffs in ‘12. The Falcons finished fifth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.7 ppg.), red zone scoring defense (46.1 pct) and total takeaways (31) and interceptions (20). That season Nolan’s defense faced three Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks at the Georgia Dome (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning), and the three threw a combined one touchdown and 10 interceptions as the Falcons went 3-0 against the Saints, Broncos and Giants. Also in 2012, safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore both went to the Pro Bowl for the first time in their careers, while linebacker Sean Weatherspoon emerged to post a career-high 114 tackles.
Prior to his stint as defensive coordinator in Atlanta, Nolan held the same titles in Denver (2009) and Miami (2010-11). In Denver, he coordinated the defense opposite current Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy, who was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator at the time. In Nolan’s only season in the Mile High City, Denver’s team defense improved to seventh overall, including third in pass defense, after ranking 29th in total defense in 2008. And in Miami, the Dolphins ranked sixth in total defense, seventh in run defense and eighth in pass defense in 2010. Then in 2011, they ranked third against the run, sixth in scoring and red zone defense, seventh in third-down defense, and 10th in sacks.
From 2005-08, Nolan was the head coach in San Francisco. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Dick, who coached the 49ers for eight seasons (1968-75) during an 11-year NFL head coaching career. The 49ers were one of the NFL’s most consistent teams in stopping the run during Nolan’s tenure, ranking fourth in the league in fewest yards per carry allowed (3.9) during that period.
Nolan earned the head coaching job in San Francisco after a successful stint with his hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, which included three seasons (2002-04) as their defensive coordinator. In 2002 he coached one of the league’s youngest defenses, yet the Ravens recorded a franchise-record and AFC-leading 25 interceptions. Over the course of his three full seasons as coordinator, the Ravens tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (106), while ranking fifth in the league in points per game allowed (18.8). Five Baltimore defenders earned a total of nine trips to the Pro Bowl, and Nolan instructed back-to-back Associated Press NFL Defensive Players of the Year in Ray Lewis (2003) and Ed Reed (2004).
Nolan began his coaching career in 1981 as a graduate assistant at Oregon. From there he coached linebackers and defensive backs at Stanford (1982-83) and Rice (1984-85) before coaching linebackers at LSU in 1986. He landed his first NFL job with the Broncos, serving as both the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator from 1987-92. Denver went to two Super Bowls (XXII and XXIV) and an AFC Championship Game during his first stint there.
Nolan became a defensive coordinator for the first time in his career during the 1993-96 seasons with the New York Giants, helping them to the divisional playoffs in 1993 after their defense allowed a league-low 12.8 points per game. Just 33 years old at the time of his hiring, Nolan was the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinator. He then spent the 1997-99 seasons in Washington, helping the Redskins to an NFC East crown in 1999, and then Nolan spent the 2000 season with the New York Jets before coaching in Baltimore.
Prior to embarking on his coaching career, Nolan was a three-year starter at safety at Oregon. He enrolled as a walk-on before becoming a starter. He went to training camp with the Broncos in 1981, but returned to Oregon following his release.
Nolan and his wife, Kathy, have four children: Michael, Christopher, Laura and Jennifer.