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Falcons hire Packers DB coach Jerry Gray as assistant head coach

Gray had interviewed with Atlanta for their open defensive coordinator job earlier this offseason.

NFL: Green Bay Packers Training Camp Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Two weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons requested an interview with Green Bay Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray for their vacant defensive coordinator position. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who had worked with Gray prior with the Tennessee Titans, eventually hired Ryan Nielsen — former New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator — for the job. They’re going to take Gray anyway.

The Falcons officially announced on Tuesday that Gray will be joining the coaching staff as the team’s assistant head coach of defense. Right about now, you’re probably wondering how the Packers were unable to block an assistant from taking a non-coordinator position with a team. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Gray’s contract with Green Bay had expired after the 2022 season, making him a free agent.

Earlier this month, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur stated that he “anticipate[d]” that the full 2022 coaching staff would return in 2023. That’s not gonna happen. Beyond Gray leaving, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia has received a second interview for the Indianapolis Colts’ head coaching opening, which could throw another curveball at LaFleur’s 2023 plans.

One candidate to keep an eye on in the upcoming search for Green Bay’s new defensive backs coach is Aubrey Pleasant. Pleasant was fired by the Detroit Lions in-season in 2022 but was picked up by the Packers as an offensive consultant to assist in reverse-engineering opposing defenses. Pleasant was the cornerbacks coach with the Los Angeles Rams from 2017 to 2020, crossing over with LaFleur’s time with the team, and was later the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator in Detroit in 2021 and the first two months of the 2022 season.