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By the Numbers: Expectations for Mike Nolan’s Defense

In one of the most eventful offseasons in team history, perhaps the most significant move has become somewhat of an after thought. Yes, the Dolphins brought in a playmaking inside linebacker in Karlos Dansby, and traded for one of the league’s best receivers in Brandon Marshall, but if Mike Nolan can have the kind of impact he had on the Denver Broncos a year ago, turning what was a 29th ranked defense into the 7th overall unit in 09′, no one will question how valuable a pickup he was this January.

That turnaround has given Dolfans a reason to get their hopes up for the new-look 2010 defense, but what about Nolan’s previous tenures? Let’s take a look back at all of his defensive coordinator gigs, see if last season was consistent with the rest of his career, and try and get a feel for how much improvement to expect on the defensive side of the ball for Miami.

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New York Giants DC (1993-1996)

Before Nolan: 1992 NYG

Year Pts. Gm. (Rank)
1992 22.9 PPG (26th)

With Nolan: 1993-1996 NYG

Year Pts Gm. (Rank)
1993 12.8 PPG (1st)
1994 19.1 PPG (8th)
1995 21.2 PPG (16th)
1996 18.6 PPG (10th)

Washington Redskins DC (1997-1999)

Before Nolan: 1996 Redskins

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
1996 19.5 PPG (13th)

With Nolan: 1997-1999 Redskins

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
1997 18.1 PPG (8th)
1998 26.3 PPG (28th)
1999 23.6 PPG (24th)

New York Jets DC (2000)

Before Nolan: 1999 NYJ

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
1999 19.3 PPG (9th)

With Nolan: 2000 NYJ

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
2000 20.1 PPG (13th)

Baltimore Ravens DC (2002-2004)

Before Nolan: 2001 Ravens (Nolan served as wide receivers coach)

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
2001 16.6 PPG (4th)

With Nolan: 2002-2004 Ravens

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
2002 22.1 PPG (19th)
2003 17.6 PPG (6th)
2004 16.8 (6th)

Served as San Francisco 49ers head coach from 2005-2008

Denver Broncos DC (2009)

Before Nolan: 2008 Broncos

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
2008 28.0 PPG (30th)

With Nolan: 2009 Broncos

Year Pts. Gm (Rank)
2009 20.2 PPG (12th)

Looking at Nolan’s resume, obviously things haven’t always been as impressive as the turnaround in Denver, as he had his struggles running the Redskins’ defense in 98′ and 99′, and wasn’t exactly brilliant in his first season as the play caller for the Ravens’ D’. But when he has been given the reigns to some of the worse defenses in football, he hasn’t disappointed.

In his first DC job, Nolan took over the 26th scoring defense in the league, and instantly transformed them into the league’s best. And we’ve already mentioned the unbelievable job he did in Denver last year, which was the only other bottom ten unit he has taken over. The Dolphins will be Nolan’s third bottom ten defense.

Will he be able to turnaround the 25th ranked scoring defense and 22nd ranked total defense of 09′, though? There are legitimate questions all over the field for the Dolphins’ defense, which may hinder Nolan’s impact, but looking at his body of work, this defense really shouldn’t go anywhere but up in 2010.