Vikings' Frazier to interview for open Falcons job

ATLANTA -- With two of their top three candidates eliminated, the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday expanded their search for a new head coach, as ESPN.com has learned that club officials met here with Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

The story was first reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Frazier, 48, is the seventh candidate to huddle with owner Arthur Blank and other team officials, but is the first new candidate interviewed in nearly two weeks.

Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who was offered the job on Tuesday, opted to remain with the Cowboys, netting a landmark contract for an assistant coach, and a promotion to assistant head coach. Garrett had a second interview with Dallas this week.

Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, who was impressive in his interview with the Falcons, withdrew from consideration for the job earlier this week.

Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan met with the Falcons for a second time on Monday, and remains very much in the running for the position, but has not been offered the job.

The Falcons also interviewed Dallas assistant head coach Tony Sparano, who was hired by the Miami Dolphins this week as their new head coach; Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz; and Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who had a second interview Friday in Atlanta.

Atlanta is expected to request permission to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo if his team loses in the NFC Championship Game at Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.

The session with Frazier is an indication that the Falcons, and new general manager Thomas Dimitroff, intend to broaden their options. Dimitroff was not part of the initial round of interviews, and he likely presented Blank and team president a list of potential candidates he would like to consider.

Frazier also interviewed with the Dolphins for their head coach opening, was said to have made a solid impression, and drew a strong recommendation from Miami vice president of football operations Bill Parcells.

A former defensive back in the league, Frazier played six seasons with the Chicago Bears (1981-86), and the former Alcorn State standout was a part of the Super Bowl XX champions.

He was head coach at Trinity (Ill.) College for nine seasons (1988-96), and an assistant coach at Illinois for two years (1997-98) before being hired by Philadelphia Eagles' coach Andy Reid in 1999. He served as an assistant on Reid's staff until 2002, then moved to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 as defensive coordinator.

In 2005, he was hired by Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, and then in 2007 he moved to Minnesota as the defensive coordinator after the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Mike Tomlin away from the Vikings to be head coach. In 2007, the Minnesota defense statistically ranked 20th in the league, but was No. 1 versus the run.

Frazier is known as a low-key coach but a strong communicator.

Chris Mortensen is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.