On Friday, the Falcons hired Saints co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen as their new defensive coordinator, poaching him away from their division rival.
Nielsen coached the Saints defensive line since 2017, and was a huge part of the defense’s resurgence under then-defensive coordinator and now-head coach Dennis Allen. Nielsen’s former best player, Cameron Jordan, said it was “inevitable” that Nielsen get his own defense to run, while also lamenting him going to the Saints’ biggest rival.
“Top tier DL coach in terms of developing pass rush and emphasizing technique on run and gap integrity,” Jordan said. “Wish him the semi-best as he willingly went to the Failcons…happy-ish for him.”
From 2017 to ’20, Nielsen was the New Orleans defensive line coach following an extensive career in college. He was promoted to assistant head coach in 2021, then became the co-defensive coordinator along with Kris Richard when Allen became the head coach in 2022.
However, that defense is still primarily Allen’s, so joining the Falcons allows Nielsen to run his own defense under Arthur Smith, an offensive-minded head coach.
Jordan will play his former position coach twice a year, but probably won’t root much for him in any scenario considering the rivalry between Atlanta and New Orleans.