1989Grand Valley StateNCAA Division II First Round
1990Grand Valley StateNCAA Division II First Round
1991Grand Valley StateNCAA Division II First Round
2000Western IllinoisNCAA Division I-AA First Round
2005Jacksonville JaguarsNFL Playoffs
2008Atlanta FalconsNFL Playoffs
2010Atlanta FalconsNFL Playoffs
2011Atlanta FalconsNFL Playoffs
VanGorder, who originally worked with Kelly as his defensive coordinator on the Grand Valley State staff more than two decades ago, brings to the Irish college head coaching experience at Wayne State (1992-94) and Georgia Southern (2006), seven seasons of NFL work, plus five combined years as a defensive coordinator at both Georgia and Auburn in the SEC.
VanGorder served as the New York Jets linebacker coach during the 2013 season. He mentored the tandem of David Harris (123) and DeMario Davis (107), which combined for 230 tackles this past season. Only two teams across the league had a pair of inside linebackers combine for more tackles: San Francisco 49ers (NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, 249) and Philadelphia Eagles (DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, 233).
VanGorder was also instrumental in the re-emergence of outside linebacker Calvin Pace as a dominant pass rusher. The 2003 first-round choice of the Arizona Cardinals totaled 13 sacks over the three seasons before VanGorder arrived in Gotham. Yet, under VanGorder, Pace finished the 2013 season with 10 sacks and reached double digits for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.
Prior to his stint as the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2012, VanGorder guided the Atlanta Falcons' defense from 2008-11. The Falcons achieved unprecedented heights, posting four consecutive winning seasons (a franchise first), including playoff appearances in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
Helping the Falcons to a 10-6 regular-season record in 2011, VanGorder's defense finished the regular season second in the NFL in red-zone defense, sixth in rushing defense (97.0 yards per game) and 12th in total defense (333.6 yards per game).
In 2010, the Falcons finished 10th in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 105.9 yards per game, which ranked fifth in the NFC. VanGorder's defense ranked in the top five in the NFL in scoring defense (18.0, fifth), turnover differential (+14, third) and interceptions (22, fourth), marking highs for VanGorder's defense during his tenure.
With the leadership of VanGorder, cornerback Brent Grimes earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2010 after posting a single-season franchise-high 23 passes defensed, and tying for the team lead in interceptions (five), while adding 82 tackles. His 23 pass breakups ranked second in the NFL in 2010.
John Abraham earned his fourth career Pro Bowl selection in 2010 as he led all defensive ends in sacks (13.0), and added 43 tackles, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one interception. He also garnered his third selection to the All-Pro team under the guidance of VanGorder.
In 2009, Atlanta's rush defense finished tied for 10th best in the NFL (sixth in the NFC), allowing an average of only 106.8 yards per game. The ranking was 15 spots better than the previous 2008 campaign. Under VanGorder's leadership, the Falcons' 2009 rush defense only allowed one 100-yard rusher all season.
In 2008, VanGorder started the retooling process to transform the Falcons' defense into a unit that played with intensity, passion, aggression and toughness. The Falcons, under VanGorder's guidance, finished 11th in the NFL in points allowed at just an average of 20.3 per contest.
With VanGorder's direction, linebacker Curtis Lofton played a pivotal role in developing the defense. He earned a starting spot in the middle of the defense as a rookie, garnering NFL All-Rookie accolades from Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly, and finished second in the league among all rookies with 108 stops.
Prior to his arrival with the Falcons, VanGorder was the head coach at Georgia Southern in 2006. VanGorder spent the 2005 season coaching the linebackers for the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars under current Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Jacksonville ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense that season with VanGorder's help.
During VanGorder's tenure in Athens (2001-04), Georgia won one SEC title, two SEC East Division championships, captured three bowl games and ended up with three straight top-10 finishes in the final national polls. VanGorder's Bulldog defenses included four first-round NFL draft picks (Thomas Davis, Charles Grant, David Pollack and Johnathan Sullivan) while also seeing four players earn All-America recognition (Boss Bailey, Davis, Sean James and Pollack).
Georgia posted a 42-10 record over VanGorder's four seasons with the Bulldogs. In his last year at Georgia in 2004, the Bulldogs went 10-2 and finished the season ranked seventh in the nation. Georgia produced a defense that ranked eighth overall and ninth in scoring defense. VanGorder's 2003 defensive unit finished third nationally in scoring defense, fourth in total defense and sixth in passing defense.
In 2002, Georgia's defense allowed only 31 points during the final seven games, propelling the Bulldogs to a Sugar Bowl win over Florida State (26-13) and a number three ranking overall in the polls. His strong defense also led the SEC in scoring defense and finished fourth nationally.
VanGorder also had college coaching stints as an assistant at Western Illinois (2000), Central Michigan (1998-99), Central Florida (1995-1997), Wayne State (1992-1994) and Grand Valley State (1989-91).
A four-year letter-winner as a linebacker at Wayne State, VanGorder played for the Tartars from 1977-80. He collected 335 career tackles, which ranks seventh in school history.
VanGorder was inducted into the Wayne State University Hall of Fame in 2013.
OLB Calvin Pace, New York Jets
Finished the 2013 season with 10 sacks and reached double digits for the first time in his 11-year NFL career
DE John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons
Led all defensive ends in sacks in 2010 with 13 en route to a Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro honoree
LB Curtis Lofton, Atlanta Falcons
NFL All-Rookie accolades from Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly in 2008; finished second in the league among all rookies with 108 stops
CB Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons
Earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2010 after posting a single-season franchise-high 23 passes defensed. He also tied for the team lead in interceptions (five)
Grimes' 23 pass breakups ranked second in the NFL in 2010
LB Thomas Davis (Georgia), Carolina Panthers
2005 first-round (14th overall) NFL Draft pick by Carolina
First-team All-SEC selection and a consensus first-team All-American in 2004
DE David Pollack (Georgia)
2005 first-round (17th overall) NFL Draft pick by Cincinnati
Three-time first-team All-American (2002-04), including two-time NCAA consensus first-team honoree
Captured SEC Player of the Year Award (2004), SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award (2004), Chuck Bednarik Award (2004), Ted Hendricks Award (2003, 2004), Lombardi Award (2004) and Lott Trophy (2004)
DE Charles Grant (Georgia)
2002 first-round (25th overall) NFL Draft pick by New Orleans
Three-year letterman and two-year starter who ended career with 15 sacks, which ranks 11th in school history
LB Boss Bailey (Georgia)
2003 second-round NFL Draft pick by Detroit
First-team All-American in 2002 and semifinalist for the Butkus and Lombardi Trophies
DT Johnathan Sullivan (Georgia)
2003 first-round (sixth overall) NFL Draft pick by New Orleans