Falcons hire Gray from Packers as assistant head coach for defense


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith continued to reshape his defensive staff by hiring Jerry Gray as the assistant head coach for defense on Tuesday.

Gray, 60, brings 26 years of NFL coaching experience to Atlanta, including eight as a defensive coordinator and 16 as a defensive backs coach. In those 24 years as a coordinator or defensive backs coach, his defenses have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense 10 times and in passing defense 13 times.

The addition of Gray, who had been Green Bay’s defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, forms a reunion with Smith.

The two worked together as assistants on Washington’s staff in 2007-08 and on Tennessee’s staff from 2011-13, when Gray was the Titans defensive coordinator.

Gray also is a former defensive coordinator with Buffalo (2001-05).

The hiring of Gray comes after the Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator on Friday. Nielsen had been the New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator.

When hiring Nielsen, the Falcons announced three defensive assistants will not return next season: defensive line coach Gary Emanuel, outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino and secondary coach Jon Hoke.

The Packers finished in the top 10 in passing defense in each of Gray’s three seasons on the staff. The Packers ranked sixth in passing defense in 2022.