NFC South: Joe Danna

Most important assistant coaches

July, 15, 2013
Assistant coaches often are anonymous, but they can be a big part of the reason why a team succeeds are fails.

Let’s take a look at the NFC South assistants, not including coordinators, that could be most important in 2013:

Atlanta Falcons. I’m going with two here because the Falcons list Tim Lewis as their secondary coach and Joe Danna as their defensive backs coach. Both will have their hands full because the Falcons released cornerback Dunta Robinson and cornerback Brent Grimes left via free agency.

Veteran starter Asante Samuel and nickel back Robert McClain remain, but the Falcons suddenly have a lot of youth at cornerback. They used their first two draft picks on cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and Lewis and Danna will have to get those two up to speed quickly because the Falcons open their season against the pass-happy New Orleans Saints. It’s likely the Falcons will have one of the rookies starting and the other could compete with McClain for playing time.

Carolina Panthers. Aside from offensive coordinator Mike Shula, I think quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey could be the most important member of this staff. Dorsey is new to coaching. He had been working in Carolina’s scouting department the last two years, but was added to the staff when coordinator Rob Chudzinski left to become the head coach in Cleveland and Shula was promoted.

But Dorsey, who had a journeyman career as an NFL quarterback, should be able to relate well to quarterback Cam Newton. Dorsey worked as an instructor at IMG Academy when Newton was doing his combine preparation there in 2011.

New Orleans Saints. You could make a strong case for any of the defensive assistants as the Saints try to overhaul a unit that ranked No. 32 in the league last year. But I’m going with offensive line coach Brett Ingalls.

After spending the last four years as the running backs coach, Ingalls was moved to offensive line coach after Aaron Kromer left to become the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears. Ingalls spent a large chunk of his time as a college assistant working with offensive linemen, so this territory is not foreign to him.

Ingalls has his work cut out for him. A tight salary-cap situation prevented the Saints from re-signing Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The Saints will go to camp with Charles Brown, Jason Smith and rookie Terron Armstead competing for the right to protect Drew Brees' blind side. Ingalls should be helped by the fact he has a strong interior line anchored by guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, but he needs to get solid play out of the left tackle spot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This one is easy because everything in Tampa Bay this season is about quarterback Josh Freeman. He’s headed into the final year of his contract and this season will determine if he has a long-term future with the Bucs.

That’s why I’m going with quarterbacks coach John McNulty. He’s new to the Bucs, but has history with coach Greg Schiano. McNulty worked for Schiano at Rutgers. Schiano tried to hire McNulty to his staff last year, but was refused permission by Arizona, where McNulty was coaching the wide receivers.

McNulty has a reputation for having a bright offensive mind and it will be up to him and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to help Freeman become more consistent.

Around the NFC South

February, 1, 2012
Former New Orleans offensive lineman Willie Roaf and former Carolina linebacker Kevin Greene are this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists most often identified with NFC South teams. But there’s another tie. That’s seniors candidate Dick Stanfel. He did two stints as New Orleans’ offensive line coach and also was interim head coach for the Saints in 1980. But his main claim to fame was as a player. Stanfel was an offensive lineman for Detroit and was selected to the All-Decade team for the 1950s.

The Atlanta Falcons filled out their coaching staff with two moves that were expected. Glenn Thomas was promoted from offensive quality-control assistant to quarterbacks coach and Joe Danna was hired as defensive backs coach. Thomas has been with the team since 2008 and has a good relationship with quarterback Matt Ryan. Danna previously worked with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in Miami the last two seasons and was a defensive assistant in Atlanta for two years before that. The Falcons also made Andrew Weidinger an offensive assistant. He spent the last four years in Atlanta, providing administrative help for the coaching staff.

Although the Panthers have unveiled a new logo, which is only slightly different from the past, there won’t be any major changes to their uniforms, Scott Fowler writes. The new logo will be incorporated into helmets and jerseys, but the uniforms will remain the same otherwise.

Former NFL coach Steve Mariucci said he believes Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is on his way to greatness. I don’t think Mariucci is the first to have that thought.

The Buccaneers reportedly haven’t given up all hope of bringing in Arizona receivers coach John McNulty as their offensive coordinator, even though the Cardinals refused to grant permission for an interview. The Bucs may make a plea straight to Cardinals ownership. I suppose a trade also would be a hypothetical possibility, but it’s hard to imagine a team giving up a draft pick for an assistant coach.

Around the NFC South

January, 29, 2012
Time for a Sunday look at the headlines from around the NFC South.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting some of the same treatment they used to give others when Bruce Allen was their general manager. The Arizona Cardinals refused to give the Bucs permission to talk to wide receivers coach John McNulty, who remains under contract. Presumably, the Bucs were interested in McNulty as the offensive coordinator for new coach Greg Schiano. The two worked together at Rutgers.

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports Miami assistant Joe Danna is the leading candidate to become Atlanta’s defensive backs coach. Alvin Reynolds was fired from that spot last week.

Although he’s having fun in Hawaii, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said he doesn’t want to be at the Pro Bowl every year. He wants to be playing in Super Bowls.

Speaking of the Pro Bowl, it will air at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. In addition to Newton, the other NFC South representatives are all offensive players -- New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans and Jermon Bushrod, Carolina’s Steve Smith and Ryan Kalil, Atlanta’s Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and Tampa Bay’s Davin Joseph. By the way, you might want to keep an eye on White’s verified Twitter account during the game. For the first time ever, the NFL will allow players to tweet during a game. If you’ve followed White on Twitter, you know he’s more than a Pro Bowler in that area. He’s a first-team All-Pro.

Keep an eye on our main NFL page for Pro Bowl coverage. If an NFC South player does anything out of the ordinary or there are injuries, I’ll weigh in on the blog.