The Minnesota Vikings don’t have a defensive coordinator yet for 2023, but a former Vikings coach landed on his feet Tuesday — with the Atlanta Falcons.
That’s Jerry Gray, who will serve as Atlanta’s assistant head coach. NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo tweeted Tuesday, “The Falcons have finalized a deal with Jerry Gray to join their coaching staff with the title of assistant head coach/defense, source says. He’s back with Arthur Smith.”
Former Vikings Coach Joins Falcons
Moments later, the Falcons confirmed the news.
Gray was affiliated with the Vikings at the dawn of the Mike Zimmer era and oversaw the “good part” of Zimmer’s defensive reign. As defensive backs coach from 2014 to 2019, the Vikings ranked 1st in the NFL per defensive EPA/Play but dipped to 20th from 2020 to 2021 when Gray and other key players departed. During that offseason, players like Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Trae Waynes, Linval Joseph, and Mackensie Alexander scattered because of free agency. And so left Gray, who ended up with the Vikings primary foe, the Green Bay Packers.
In Green Bay, Gray manned the same job as he did with the Vikings, defensive backs coach, and the transition to the Packers worked somewhat well for Gray as Green Bay reached an NFC Championship and one Divisional Round playoff game. Not bad.
In addition to the Vikings and Packers, Gray has worked various coaching jobs with the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Washington Commanders, and Seattle Seahawks. As a player from 1985 to 1993, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro with the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gray will have work cut out for him in Atlanta, as the Falcons defense ranked 29th in the NFL per EPA/Play. Atlanta also ranked 21st in points allowed and 26 in yards allowed — both marks better than the 2022 Vikings.
Last week, Atlanta hired Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator. Nielsen was a co-defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints in 2022, a unit that ranked 10th leaguewide per the same EPA/Play metric. Nielsen also interviewed for the Vikings open defensive coordinator position, a job unfilled as of January 30th.
Gray was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 but was not chosen as a finalist. At the peak of his powers from 1986 to 1989, he was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks.
The Vikings play Gray’s Falcons next season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).