Fleeting VanGorder might finally have found his place

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Brian VanGorder might spend several seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator.

For a coaching veteran who's held six different jobs with five teams since the start of 2004, VanGorder seemed at peace Tuesday on the second day of Atlanta's voluntary minicamp.

"What we're looking for is to help our players understand the terminology of the scheme," the 48-year-old VanGorder said.

Few coaches are as qualified as VanGorder in adapting to a new situation.

His one-and-done approach would rival that of any NFL or major college assistant over the past five years.

VanGorder was a respected coordinator at Georgia before leaving the Bulldogs to become Jacksonville's linebackers coach in 2005.

Georgia Southern hired him as head coach the following year, but VanGorder quit following a 3-8 season.

His new boss, Bobby Petrino, beat him out the door in 2007, abruptly resigning to head for Arkansas, leaving a 3-10 team to sort through the wreckage of the final three weeks.

After Petrino fled on the night of Dec. 11, VanGorder needed just eight days before Steve Spurrier introduced him as defensive coordinator at South Carolina.

Within four weeks, VanGorder was back in the NFL when Petrino's replacement, Mike Smith, announced him as Atlanta's coordinator.

"You know, as I look at my career, I made one questionable decision, but I still look at that as a positive," VanGorder said about the disappointing stop at Georgia Southern.

"It was a good experience. Wherever you are, you meet good people, and I choose to look at all these experiences as being positive."

VanGorder's new job with the Falcons could bring some stability to his wife and family. He knows that Smith, unlike the elusive Petrino, has embraced his role with Atlanta and promises to stay as long as he's wanted.

"The tough thing for me as a father of my five children, we've had to move around, change schools, and my wife's had to start anew in communities with friendships and those sorts of things," VanGorder said. "Coaching football is coaching football. We can really do that anywhere, but my family -- that's the part that's been really difficult."

It should help, too, that Smith hired two of VanGorder's coworkers in Jacksonville, defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and secondary coach Alvin Reynolds.

VanGorder also spent last season alongside Emmitt Thomas, a Falcons assistant since 2002 and the man owner Arthur Blank asked to work as Petrino's interim replacement in the final three weeks last season.

"Fortunately, being in the Jacksonville system, it's not a difficult transition for me," VanGorder said.

VanGorder expects two of his returning starters, middle linebacker Keith Brooking and weakside linebacker Michael Boley, to help younger players adjust. Along with veteran standouts such as right end John Abraham and strong safety Lawyer Milloy, Brooking and Boley will take on more leadership at the next minicamp, mandatory sessions that will include the 2008 rookie class.

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