New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton announced Tuesday, Jan. 31 that the club has hired Mike Nolan as linebackers coach and Bradford Banta as special teams coordinator.
Mike Nolan, the son of 11-year NFL head coaching veteran Dick Nolan who guided the Saints from 1978-80, will be entering his 30th year coaching in the NFL in 2017, including four seasons as a head coach (San Francisco, 2005-08) and 17 campaigns as a defensive coordinator. In 2015, he served as linebackers coach of the San Diego Chargers and garnered impressive performances from a trio of young players at his position group. Second-round draft pick Manti Te’o led the team with 107 tackles, while fellow rookie Denzel Perryman ranked second on the club behind Te’o with 95 stops, despite starting only nine contests. On the outside, Melvin Ingram led the team and tied for 12th in the NFL with 10.5 sacks.
Nolan has served as coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons (2012-14), Miami Dolphins (2010-11), Denver Broncos (2009), Baltimore Ravens (2002-04), New York Jets (2000), Washington Redskins (1997-99) and New York Giants (1993-96). In these the 17 seasons, the defenses that Nolan has tutored have finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense eight times. In 2012, the Falcons finished fifth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.7 ppg.), red zone scoring defense (46.1 pct.), total takeaways (31) and interceptions (20), as they earned the NFC’s number one seed in the playoffs and advanced to the NFC Championship. During his two-season stint in Miami, the Dolphins ranked sixth in total defense, seventh in run defense and eighth in pass defense in 2010 and finished third against the run, sixth in scoring and red zone defense, seventh in third-down defense and 10th in sacks in 2011. In 2009 in Denver, the Broncos improved in opponent net yards per game to seventh overall, including third in pass defense, after ranking 29th in total defense in 2008.
From 2005-08, Nolan served as head coach in San Francisco, following in the footsteps of his father who coached the 49ers for eight seasons (1968-75) prior to his four-year Saints tenure as an assistant (1977) and head coach (1978-80). The 49ers were one of the NFL’s most consistent teams in stopping the run during Nolan’s tenure, ranking fourth in the league in opponent yards per carry (3.9) during that period. In 2007, the 49ers selected LB Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in the draft, who would be selected as the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year and as an AP first-team All-Pro, the squad’s only rookie. Willis became the first defensive rookie from the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981, finishing with 226 tackles (143 solo), four sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Nolan earned the 49ers head coaching job after a successful stint with the Ravens, which included three seasons (2002-04) as their coordinator. In 2002, he coached one of the league’s youngest defenses, yet the Ravens recorded a team-record and AFC-leading 25 interceptions. Over the course of his three seasons as coordinator, the Ravens tied for the league lead in takeaways (106), while ranking fifth in points per game allowed (18.8). Five Baltimore defenders earned a total of nine trips to the Pro Bowl and Nolan instructed back-to-back AP NFL Defensive Players of the Year in Ray Lewis (2003) and Ed Reed (2004). Nolan became a defensive coordinator for the first time in his career in 1993 with the New York Giants after serving as both the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator with the Broncos from 1987-92, a time during which Denver participated in two Super Bowls (XXII and XXIV). The Giants defense allowed a league-low 12.8 points per game in his first season.
Nolan was a three-year starter at safety at Oregon, after initially enrolling as a walk-on. After beginning his career at his alma mater in 1981, he then coached linebackers and defensive backs at Stanford (1982-83) and Rice (1984-85), before coaching linebackers at LSU in 1986 prior to entering the NFL coaching ranks with the Broncos.
Banta, a Baton Rouge native who was a Parade All-American at University High School, comes to New Orleans with 10 years of coaching experience following an 11-year NFL playing career as a long snapper. From 2014-16, Banta served as assistant special teams coach with the Washington Redskins, where he contributed to the team having extensive success in the kicking game the last two seasons, contributing four special teams touchdowns (two kickoff returns, one punt return and a blocked punt recovery). In 2016, the Redskins ranked fourth in the NFL in punt return average (12.7) and K Dustin Hopkins ranked third in the league in scoring among kickers with 138 points. In 2015, despite the unit having to use 60 different players (tied for seventh-most in the NFL), Washington’s special teams ranked fourth in the league in kickoff coverage (20.5) and also contributed three touchdowns, two on kickoff returns for a return unit ranked ninth (25.0).
Prior to joining the Redskins, Banta spent six seasons with the Detroit Lions in various coaching capacities, including serving as assistant special teams coach from 2008-11. Banta started his coaching career as a tight ends coach for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He handled long-snapping duties for the Indianapolis Colts (1994-99), New York Jets (2000), Detroit Lions (2001-03) and Buffalo Bills (2004), appearing in 156 career games. Banta was a fourth-round selection of the Colts in the 1994 NFL Draft (106th overall) out of Southern California.