No one can claim to be shocked by the announcement and not many people can argue that it isn’t the right decision. But regardless of this Mike Smith is still going to have to face the reality of being a sacked head coach. The owner Arthur Blank has pulled the trigger on what has quickly turned into a downward spiral of bad play calls, poor clock management and sadly at times a look of desperation.
Mike Smith’s tenure in Atlanta is over.
The man should be heralded as one of the best ever Atlanta Falcons coaches despite his past two seasons and this is why.
Smith took over in extremely tough conditions, he was the successor to Bobby Petrino who’s embarrassing and cowardly resignation with no notice left the franchise helpless. But the Falcons turned to Mike Smith the Jaguars defensive coordinator at the time to become the new head coach. In the same year the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
In his first season with the Falcons who last year had finished 4-12, he managed to lead them to an 11-5 winning record, with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan at the helm. Smith was even named in his first year as a Head Coach, coach of the year. The following season wasn’t great for the Falcons but for the first time in 42 years they had back to back winning seasons, but under Smith the Falcons were able to break that very much unwanted national record as they finished the year with a modest 9-7 record. The following season in 2010 the Falcons finished 13-3, their best record since the 1998 Super Bowl Season for the side. They clinched the number one NFC seed, but were crushed by eventual Super Bowl Champions the Green Bay Packers.
Despite a tough start Smith had taken a sinking ship and was starting to turn it into a fleet. A franchise in which teams feared to face.
In 2011 the Falcons made a real statement by trading six picks away to grab college superstar Julio Jones, to form the ‘Atlanta Big Three’ of White, Jones and Gonzalez. The Falcons then flew to 10-6, but yet again lost straight away in the playoffs this time away to the Giants.
Cracks were beginning to grow within the Falcons franchise, a team that couldn’t win a single big game, the team without a defence and the team that choked. These were all nicknames for Smiths Atlanta franchise, but still he ploughed on desperate to prove his slowly growing doubters wrong, and what better way to do that than have one of the best seasons in Falcons history.
He led the Falcons to another 13-3 season and yet again clinched the NFC top seed. They hosted the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs and came out on top in a thrilling and last minute 30-28 winner. Then came the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons took complete control of the game leading 24-14 by half time, even taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. But Frank Gore won the game for the 49ers with two rushing TDs in the third quarter. The Falcons came so close yet fell just before the SuperBowl. This now appeared to be a Head Coach and franchise which was going to get the Lombardi Trophy sooner or later.
But this is when things started to go horribly wrong for Mike Smith and the Falcons.
Hampered by injuries to key and vital players the Falcons so called Superbowl running season ended with humiliation as they finished 4-12 only managing to beat the; Rams, Bucs, Bills and the Redskins. Not only did the Falcons only win four games they lost home and away to arch rivals New Orleans. But the owner Arthur Blank extended Smiths contract by a year and allowed him a shot at repairing the damage. But the 2014 seasons went just has badly for the struggling head coach. The Falcons slumped to 6-10 on the season, missed out on the playoffs two years running and had gone 10-22 over the past two seasons combined. Smith saved a sinking ship back in 2008 but here in 2014 he has left behind another shipwreck.
Smith has joined the long list of coaches to be sacked on ‘Black Monday’. He leaves behind what some NFL experts are calling the most attractive head coach vacancy in the NFL. A franchise quarterback, an improving O-Line with a young stud and left tackle, two very young and very impressive DBs and a receiving core to worry any defence. All a new head coach would have to do is toughen up the mentality, draft and sign a new front seven and maybe one o-linemen and he already has an impressive side.
Regardless of who takes over the Falcons for next year and regardless of how Mike Smith fared in his final two seasons. He is still a man who deserves some gratitude for all he did for the Falcons.