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Falcons hire offensive and defensive coordinators

POSTED: February 5, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 Flowery Branch — The Atlanta Falcons today named Mike Mularkey the team’s new offensive coordinator and Brian VanGorder Atlanta’s defensive coordinator.

Mularkey comes to the Falcons with a vast amount of coaching experience in the NFL, which includes two years as a head coach (Buffalo Bills) and two stints as an offensive coordinator, one with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2001-2003) and the other with the Miami Dolphins (2006).

"I am really excited to have Mike join our staff," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith.

"He is a well respected coach in this League who has had success for many years at a high level as an offensive coordinator and head coach. We share the same philosophies on the offensive side of the ball and I think he is a tremendous addition to our staff."

Last season, Mularkey served as the tight ends coach for the Dolphins and guided seven-year veteran David Martin who finished fourth on the team in receptions (34).

Before joining Miami’s staff in 2006, Mularkey spent two seasons as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. In his first season (2004), he led the Bills to their first winning campaign in five years with a 9-7 record as the club tallied wins in nine of their final 12 games.

From 1996-2003, Mularkey spent eight seasons on the staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers under Bill Cowher and served as the offensive coordinator in his final three years.

Under Mularkey’s tutelage, the Steelers finished third and fifth, respectively, in the NFL in total offense in his first two years at the post. Pittsburgh also averaged 173.4 rushing yards per game, which led the League in 2001.

Mularkey helped the Steelers register a 13-3 record in 2001 on the way to an AFC Central Division championship and an AFC Championship Game appearance.

He spent his first five years in Pittsburgh as the tight ends coach and guided the likes of Mark Bruener who was regarded as one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the league during his tenure.

Mularkey earned his start in the NFL as a quality control coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1994 and was then promoted to tight ends coach the following season. His first coaching venture came at Concordia College where he spent the 1993 season as the offensive line coach.

Mularkey’s NFL experience also includes a nine-year playing career as a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings (1983-1988) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1989-1991).

VanGorder joined the Falcons in 2007 as the linebackers coach and guided a unit consisting of veteran linebackers Keith Brooking, Michael Boley and Demorrio Williams, who all finished in the top four on the Falcons tackle list this past season.

Boley set numerous career highs last season, including total tackles (125), solo tackles (88) and forced fumbles (3) while setting a franchise record with three sacks in the first half of a Thanksgiving Day game against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Brooking led the Falcons in tackles for the seventh consecutive season with 127 and Williams contributed with 90 stops and two interceptions last year.

"I worked with Brian in Jacksonville and have a tremendous amount of respect for him," said Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. "He brings an aggressive approach that I’m sure will benefit our defense."

Next season will mark VanGorder’s third year in the NFL. Prior to serving as the head coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles in 2006, he spent the 2005 campaign coaching the linebackers for the Jacksonville Jaguars under new Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Jacksonville ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense that season.

From 2001-2004, VanGorder was a highly successful defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the University of Georgia. The Bulldogs posted a 42-10 record over his four seasons at UGA and tallied three straight top 10 finishes in the final national polls. In 2003, VanGorder received the Frank Boyles "Assistant Coach of the Year" award, which honors the nation’s top assistant coach.

VanGorder also had coaching stints at Western Illinois (2000), Central Michigan (1998-99), the University of Central Florida (1995-1997), Wayne State (1992-1994) and Grand Valley State (1989-91).



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