With Rex Ryan out of picture, Bowles moves to forefront of search

FLOWERY BRANCH – With former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan out of the picture, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has moved to the forefront of the Atlanta Falcons’ coaching search.

Bowles could be named the new coach as early as Wednesday.

Ryan, who was interviewed by the Falcons for their head coaching vacancy last Tuesday, is set to take the Buffalo Bills head coaching job, according to an ESPN report.

090802 Flowery Branch - Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong runs his players through kickoff drills on day 2 of training camp in Flowery Branch, Sunday, August 2, 2009. Only the special teams participated in the morning practice session. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

There are still details to be ironed out. Ryan is expected to be hired as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN who didn’t cite a source. Ryan is represented by agent Jimmy Sexton.

Ryan reportedly interviewed with the Bills for a second time on Saturday.

Ryan reportedly told the Falcons he wouldn’t go to Buffalo if they offered the job. His interview lasted five hours because it was interrupted by medical updates on owner Arthur Blank’s mother, who died the following day.

Ryan also interviewed with the Falcons in 2008, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff favored and hired Mike Smith. With Dimitroff still in control, Ryan perhaps wanted a different situation.

With a son at Clemson and a summer home in Tennessee, Ryan reportedly favored the Falcons’ opening.

Bowles interviewed with the Falcons on Saturday and is now considered the leading candidate to replace head coach Mike Smith. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to stay with the Patriots. Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is not available until at least after the NFC championship game and may not be available until after the Super Bowl. He is considered the leader for the New York Jets coaching vacancy.

Bowles has been on the Falcons' radar from the outset of the coaching search, but couldn’t interview until the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs.

Bowles is believed to have a major supporter in the Falcons hierarchy in assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who’s father-in-law is Bill Parcells. Bowles worked for Parcells in Dallas and Miami.

He is one of the hottest candidates out on the NFL head-coaching circuit right now. He's considered a contender in Chicago and San Francisco.

The Falcons are set to interview Rex Ryan on Tuesday, according to league-owned NFL Media.

Bowles could bring Arizona quarterback coach Freddie Kitchens or former Dallas Cowboys and Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator.

The Falcons had a chance to watch Bowles up close when Arizona faced the Falcons in the Georgia Dome last season. It wasn't a good day for his unit as the Falcons amassed 500 total yards in a 29-18 victory.

Bowles received a contract extension from the Cardinals through 2017 during the season. Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said the extension was given in-part so that Bowles could be selective during the hiring process.

Bowles, a former NFL player, started his coaching career as the defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Morehouse in 1997.

The Falcons' opening is considered the most attractive one or second-most attractive behind San Francisco because of quarterback Matt Ryan. The other teams -- New York Jets, Chicago and Oakland -- looking for a coach do not have stable quarterback situations.

Bowles was hired as the Cardinals defensive coordinator on Jan. 21, 2013 after spending the 2012 season with Philadelphia Eagles.

He’s a 14-year NFL assistant who has also coached with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins during his career.

In his first year in Arizona, the Cardinals had the NFL’s 6th ranked defense and No. 1 ranked run defense. They allowed the fewest rushing yards in team history for a 16-game season (1,351 yards), had 47.0 sacks (3rd in team history) and 30 takeaways (tied for 6th in NFL), including 20 interceptions (5th in NFL).

Without linebackers John Abraham, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington, the Cardinals defense took a step backwards last season.

The Cardinals gave up 368.2 yards overall, which ranked 24th in the league. They gave up 108.7 yards rushing per game (13th) and 259.5 passing (29th). The Cardinals had 35 sacks (24th). They were able to race out to a 9-2 record and earn a playoff berth because Bowles’ unit created 25 takeaways (18 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries), which ranked fifth in the league.

Bowles played defensive back in the NFL for eight seasons with the Washington Redskins (1986-90; 1992-93) and San Francisco 49ers (1991).

He played collegiately at Temple (1982-85) where he was a team captain under Arians in 1985 and played with Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong (running back/defensive back 1983-86).

He was a member of the 1987 Washington Redskins Super Bowl XXII championship team.

The Falcons have also interviewed Denver offensive coordinator Andrew Gase and former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone.

REPLACING HEAD COACH MIKE SMITH

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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