ATLANTA — With Rex Ryan no longer an option, three defensive coordinators, including Arizona's Todd Bowles, may lead the Atlanta Falcons' coach search.
The Falcons are expected to conduct second interviews with Bowles and Detroit's Teryl Austin this week. The team must wait for a follow-up meeting with Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is off-limits this week as the Seahawks prepare for the NFC championship game.
Ryan, the former Jets coach, accepted an offer to become Buffalo's coach following his interview with the Falcons last week. The Bills announced Ryan as their new coach on Monday, one day after he reached an agreement with the team.
That leaves the defensive coordinators as possible front-runners to replace fired coach Mike Smith. Detroit, Seattle and Arizona all ranked among the NFL's top eight teams in total defense this season.
The Falcons also have interviewed New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and former Bills coach Doug Marrone.
If the Seahawks beat Green Bay on Sunday, Quinn may not be open for more talks with Atlanta until after the Feb. 1 Super Bowl.
Bowles, 51, was Philadelphia's defensive coordinator in 2012 before guiding the Cardinals' defense the last two years. He previously worked as a defensive assistant with the Jets, Cleveland, Dallas and Miami. He was 2-1 as the Dolphins' interim head coach in 2011. He played eight seasons in the NFL with Washington and San Francisco.
Austin, 49, was Baltimore's defensive coordinator for three years before being named Detroit's defensive coordinator before the 2014 season. Lions coach Jim Caldwell says he Austin is ready to be a head coach despite having only one season as a coordinator.
"He has all of the qualities that you're looking for," Caldwell said last week.
Caldwell said Austin has the "technical knowledge" and "the emotional sort of connection with his players" needed to be a head coach.
McDaniels would add another layer to the Falcons' Patriots connections.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was New England's director of college scouting before he came to Atlanta in 2008. Scott Pioli, director of player personnel for the Patriots from 2000-08, was hired as Atlanta's assistant general manager last year.
Pioli was given new duties in pro and college scouting and the NFL draft last week as team owner Arthur Blank restructured the personnel department. Pioli will continue to report to Dimitroff. Dimitroff and the new coach will report separately to Blank.
A possible wild-card candidate could emerge in Dallas. Cowboys' coach Jason Garrett's contract expired when Dallas lost to Green Bay in the playoffs on Sunday. He is free to talk with any team.
Garrett, then the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, had two interviews with the Falcons in 2008 before Smith was hired. He was considered a top candidate before deciding to remain with Dallas, where he already was the designated successor to coach Wade Phillips.
The Falcons' search was delayed last week following the death of Blank's 99-year-old mother, Molly, on Wednesday in Atlanta.