Can Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith Make Needed Changes?

Sporting News Coach of the Year

Mike Smith is the greatest coach in Atlanta Falcons franchise history in terms of winning, consistency, and overall performance. In his five short years as head coach, he’s the all-time winningest coach in the history of the franchise (a testament to Smith, but also a reflection of the Falcons poor historical record). Smith’s not going anywhere, but many wonder if he’ll ever get another shot as good as the one the Falcons just had: #1 seed in playoffs, home-field advantage, up 17-0 at home in the 1st quarter. Obviously, no one can predict the future, but next season will be infinitely harder with a much more challenging schedule, a roster in flux, and a team in major need of infusions of talent, albeit with limited cap space. A look at the pros and cons of Head Coach Mike Smith………

Paramount Success

Who are these guys? (AJC)

As mentioned above, Mike Smith has had imminent success the past five seasons as Falcons head coach. The Falcons are only second to the New England Patriots in regular season wins the past 5 years. He took a broken franchise and pulled it from the ashes to one of the biggest contenders in the National Football League year in and year out. It’s true they haven’t won it all yet or even made the Super Bowl under Smith, but they’ve have winning seasons of 11, 9, 13, 10, and 13. No one can argue with perennial regular season success. How many franchises would gladly take those seasons the past five years?

Major Issues with Development

One of Smith’s biggest weaknesses has been the failure to develop players during his tenure. It’s unfair to say that it’s all Smith’s fault because Dimitroff is the one who makes the final call on bringing in and drafting players, but as longtime Cage Member Seminole Warrior said, “this defense is no better than when Smith and Dimitroff first took over.” Dimitroff has made some questionable and even downright bad picks throughout his tenure, but this speaks more to seeing potential at times in preseason and training camp, only to never see them again. The “Witness Protection Program,” as Big Ray called it, had produced some areas that are either exactly the same or even worse than 5 years ago. Namely, the defensive pass rush may actually be worse considering that after 5 years, they have not produced one single pass rusher to help out John Abraham.

Development Issues (AJC)

They have drafted Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews, Vance Walker, Corey Peters, Travian Robertson, and signed Ray Edwards. All of these players, save for Edwards, are on the roster and most are either starting or getting meaningful snaps. However, at the end of year 5, how are we still talking about the same issues? Biermann is a player, but seems more suited for a permanent move to outside linebacker. Sidbury showed great flashes many times with excellent pass-rushing skill and, for whatever reason, can’t get on the field. Vance Walker is a great rotational player and Corey Peters is a frontline starter. Peria Jerry has proven time and again that he’s Dimitroff’s worst draft pick, without a shadow of a doubt. Ray Edwards was an enormous and costly whiff. But perhaps no players better represent the Witness Protection Program more than Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi, and Travian Robertson. All players showed some flashes during preseason and, like most times, they were never heard from again. It’s understandable if younger guys aren’t heard from when you have starters like Roddy White and Julio Jones in front of you, but when you’re getting shredded in the run game and have zero pass rush throughout the season, can the guys at least get a look with real snaps?

Abe Alone on Pass Rush (AJC)

The same goes with the offensive line. Again, maybe it’s completely unfair to blame Mike Smith just as equally as Thomas Dimitroff because TD is the one who pulls the final trigger on draft picks. However, the same applies to the offensive line as does the defensive line. The Falcons have drafted Sam Baker, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, Andrew Jackson, Lamar Holmes, and Peter Konz. Baker finally turned out pretty well this year and all the others have evidently become perennial backups. Peter Konz was the easily the best center in the entire draft and what happens? He’s riding backup and doesn’t even start until Garrett Reynolds gets hurt.

For all the talk of “open competition” on one of the worst offensive lines in 2011, the Falcons literally trotted out the exact same starting OL. Dimitroff should get some blame as well for drafting poorly along the lines. Mike Johnson is an interesting case. He’s generally been a bust in the NFL, but he set the record for most starts by any player in Alabama’s storied history. Doesn’t the guy have to possess some talent to play for Nick Saban for 4 years? Basically, unless you’re a 1st round draft pick, you won’t see the field for at least a year and if you’re a later round pick with some talent, you may never be heard from again and just disappear.

Amazing Consistency

New Coordinator Success (AJC)

Mike Smith is one of the best in the business at being consistent. It may not always be pretty, but Smith gets it done with W’s when it counts during the regular season. One of the biggest reasons that Smith has mounted so much success in such a short time is his consistency.

The Falcons rarely have ever lost more than one game in a row under Smith. He is at his best after a loss. The team finds a way to rebound and get the W the next week. At a time when teams go on unbelievable slides of losing 2, 3, or 4+ games in a row, Smith has the Falcons find their way back to the winning column after a loss or a bad performance. That is why the Falcons have had one of the best records in the NFL under his guidance. Some of his best games have come after a loss. Blowing out the Giants a week after getting embarrassed by the Panthers this year, for instance. Having the ability to come back from a loss and re-focus his team is one of Smith’s best attributes.

Second Half Collapses

This will tie in somewhat with a point made later, but Mike Smith’s Falcons have always had issues coming out after halftime. The two playoff games are just the most recent and highly publicized examples of something that has plagued this team since Smith’s arrival. The Falcons led the Seahawks 20-0 at halftime and had to escape with a last gasp win. The Falcons were ahead 17-0 on the Niners and 24-14 at the half. Some think it’s Smith becoming overly conservative. Some think it’s Smith being too lackadaisical. Still others believe it to be just plain stubbornness or an inability to make needed adjustments. The fact is that fans will never know the exact reason, but the truth is that the results are all that matters.

Shouldn't Have Come to 4th and 4 (AJC)

Fans used to talk about a 3rd quarter lull several years ago and that has only continued ever since. There are only a handful of examples where the Falcons have played four quarters of football and finished off an opponent the past five seasons. However, there are a ton of instances that have seen the Falcons get out to an early lead only to let their opponent right back in the game, regardless how inferior of an opponent they are.

One of the reasons the Falcons usually found a way to win the games is due to Matt Ryan’s ability to make comebacks. One explanation that Matt Ryan has so many comebacks to his name is perhaps related to the Falcons “having to come back” when they probably shouldn’t have even been in that position. It’s understandable that sometimes comebacks just happen and the ball doesn’t bounce your way, but this is an unmistakable trend that has developed under Smith and it finally came back to bite them at the very worst time.

Best Coach in Franchise History

Players Love Him (AJC)

With some of his faults and all, what Mike Smith has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time is pretty unbelievable. In a franchise that has existed for 40+ years, Mike Smith became the all-time winningest coach in it’s history in only 5 years. That’s not to even mention the trainwreck that he inherited in the Petrino / Vick debacle. Many thought it would take years and years to become legitimate again and Smith had them in the playoffs that very year, including having a rookie quarterback.

He’s led a team that’s only second to the Patriots in regular season success the past five years, won their division the last two out of three years, won the NFC’s #1 seed the last two out of three years, and led them to the playoffs in all but one of his seasons as head coach. He also helped to break that nagging “never winning back-to-back seasons” curse forever. He won his first playoff game and came up 10 yards short of his first Super Bowl appearance. Of course the road to the Super Bowl will be harder, but anything worth accomplishing always is and Smith should and will get plenty of time to get any issues fixed.

No Killer Instinct

This pretty much goes hand in hand with the point about 2nd half collapses, but this has been one of fan’s biggest complaints since Mike Smith took over. There’s only a few times in five years that fans can point to and say the Falcons completely dominated all 4 quarters. How many times have the Falcons jumped out to a big lead only to let their opponent come roaring back in the game? This season alone had plenty. The Falcons were up on the Broncos 27-7 and held on to win 27-21. The Falcons were up on the Raiders at home 20-13 with only a few minutes left thanks to an Asante Samuel interception. They let the Raiders come storming right back down and needed a last second field goal to win. They were up on the Cowboys by 10, 16-6, in the fourth quarter and let the Dallas blaze down to draw within a field goal. Another Matt Bryant field goal at the very end was needed to put it away. Even then, Tony  Romo had a chance to win with a last second TD.  A huge Thursday Night game vs. the Saints saw the Falcons blast to a 17-0 lead, only to let them score 13 unanswered points. In the next to last game of the season vs. the Lions, the Falcons were up 21-3 and found themselves in a battle at 21-16. And of course the two playoff games were the worst. a 20-0 and then a 27-7 lead evaporated and nearly lost to the Seahawks.

Too Close for Comfort (AJC)

Of course the NFC Championship had the Falcons up 17-0 early on and then 24-14 at halftime. The rest is history. Some of the games were just close games vs. quality opponents that will find a way back in, but it wouldn’t be a major trend if it were only a few games. As Fellow Cage Member Mike said, “Mike Smith’s very first game as Falcons coach led the Falcons to a 21-0 lead only to see them draw within 10 points late in the game.” They of course ended up winning fairly comfortably, but those Lions would fail to win one single game, going 0-16. 2011 saw the Falcons up by double-digits 6 times and either needed a late surge (Eagles, Vikings), a late defensive stand (Lions, Titans), or a missed field goal (Seahawks) to win, or just lost (Packers).

The parity of the NFL dictates that teams will come back and make games close, but out of those 6 regular season games in 2011 and 5 this year, only three were playoff teams. The two games in the playoffs? One they needed 31 seconds and a 49 yard field goal. The other they lost. The frustrating thing is that it’s never just one area or one side of the ball. Sometimes it might be the defense (see playoff games), other times it might be the offense going into gridlock (Saints), and still others it might be just an overall tension that emanates from Smith to his players. We often get caught up blaming the coordinators or the players for the lockups, but ultimately, the buck stops with the head coach. If Smith can find a way to get that killer instinct this off-season, the sky’s truly the limit.

Process = Progress

Every coach and team has their strengths and weaknesses and Mike Smith has not only been an outstanding coach, but he’s also been an amazing face of our franchise. He’s always pleasant with everyone he interacts with, very humble, and a tireless worker. His players love playing for him, but he wouldn’t be considered a “player’s coach.” He treats his players like men with respect and appears to be an excellent boss to his assistants. Smith never throws anyone under the bus unless it’s himself and always takes the blame for when things go wrong and promises to get it fixed. The things he’s accomplished in this very short amount of time is simply remarkable. There’s a fear that the Falcons missed their very best chance at a Super Bowl, but if Smith has shown anything during his tenure as head coach, is that he won’t get outworked in trying to fix the things that are issues and he just finds ways to win. He’s an extremely positive coach and a great man.

Can Smitty Get Over the Last Hump? (AJC)

Considering what he inherited, he has brought this mostly broken franchise to not only hope for, but expect championships. Winning seasons and winning a few playoff games are no longer acceptable and he deserves most of the credit for that. It’s true that the Falcons came up a few yards short of the Super Bowl, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and he’s already shown amazing progress from year to year. Very few coaches in NFL history always had it easy their entire career (Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy come to mind along with many others) and Smith won’t rest until he gets the ultimate prize. And by the way, he was just voted Coach of the Year by Sporting News, an award he’s won more than once in his 5 years in Atlanta.

The Cage Brethren’s Turn

1) Straight Shot – Will the Falcons win a Super Bowl under Mike Smith in your opinion?

2) Does Smith get enough credit for the success he’s had since he’s been here?

3) Who is mainly to blame for poor development: Smith, Dimtiroff, or both equally?

4) Is there a major problem with player development in your opinion?

5) Will Smith get rid of his “Witness Protection Program?”

6) Are Falcons fans jaded to regular season success?

7) Why does Smith preside over so many 2nd half collapses (formerly 3rd quarter lulls)?

8.) How can he fix the second half issues?

9) How long with Smith get to win a Super Bowl in your opinion?

10) Is Smith able or willing to develop a killer instinct?

11) What’s your overall opinion on Mike Smith as it currently stands?

520 comments Add your comment

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

January 28th, 2013
2:44 pm

This Is A Great Article!!!!……I just wish that there was at least one sports reporter within the ATL that had the “GUTS” to directly ask Mike Smith a few of these questions during a news conference.

I am all for giving Mike Smith some credit but he also deserves some criticism too.

woeismesince66

January 28th, 2013
2:46 pm

I don’t know if its a developmental problem or that the players may not be good enough to be developed. The way teams come back on the Falcons, it seems they make changes and the Falcons
don’t. The offense did’t come thru many times when a 1st down would have kept the defense off the
field. I think both offense and defense come up short. Coaching or the players, take your pick.
In the 49ers game severeal players seemed that they were worn out. They did’nt seem to be
running hard enough to get to the ball carrier. They looked like they were running in sand. Maube the strength and conditioniing coach did need to go. THEY NEED TO GET IT FIXED.

D3

January 28th, 2013
2:47 pm

Sick — Thanks man.

Notice — Before anyone starts their barrage of arrows and stones, please keep in mind that I tried my best to be objective on both sides as much as possible and represent fans feelings on Smith. Some love him, some think he should be gone, so I tried to be as balanced as possible regarding our head coach.

Th

January 28th, 2013
2:48 pm

Thanks for pointing out the poor drafting/trading that has plagued this team. It is going to get worse for the next few years as the four draft picks we didn’t get to use because of the Julio trade show up as holes in our depth.

You could have done another whole section on the poor personnel performance with the secondary. Let’s do be grateful for some accidental finds that have worked out: Vance Walker, Jason Snelling and Kroy Biermann are all late rounders that we would be much worse off without.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2013
2:58 pm

1) I honestly don’t know.

2) I think he gets plenty of credit for all that he’s done. Does he get it from everybody? No.

3) Last I looked, GMs aren’t responsible for player development. What they ARE responsible for is determining whether or not a Head Coach and his staff are effective with player development. So the direct responsiblity goes with the Head Coach. However, it is not easy to say precisely how long an HC and his staff should be given to establish patterns of developmental capability. Smitty’s patterns have been up and down. More on this later.

4) Yes. This is a continual chicken vs. egg argument, however. Which is the greater problem, the inadvisable draft pick or the Witness Protection Program? Two patterns are glaringly clear – the offensive line and the defensive line. In both cases, between Dimitroff and Smitty, there is not one single draft pick who has developed into a true stud. On the offensive side, Peter Konz may be the best pick (and no offense to Konz, who is not playing his best position, but that isn’t anything to write home about). On defense, it’s Corey Peters. Skill players? That has turned out rather well. Dimitroff got the right QB, a good RB, a stud WR, fine OLB, and some good DBs. Beyond that….

5) For God’s sake, I wish he would. Maybe he needs to replace some other guys on his staff. Tim Lewis and Glenn Pires are candidates. Ray Hamilton may be borderline…depends on how much you grade the DL draft picks at.

6) To an extent, yes. Why? Because football doesn’t end with the regular season. There is little point in racking up great regular season wins and getting to the playoffs…only to have it go POOF on you because you don’t have what it takes to go much further. Defending regular season success is all well and good. But you play to win. To win it all. IF not, then don’t play.

7) It starts with a mentality of playing not to lose. This is the epitomy of the hated term “smittyball.” Running the clock out effectively, even if scoring rate is reduced, is all well and fine. However, successfully doing so requires sustaining long offensive drives that at least end in field goals, and having a defense that continually limits the other team to field goals or no points at all. Of course, this requires that an at least somewhat comfortable lead has been established prior to “grind out” time.

When you get a decent lead, then give it up with a combination of tight-jawed offensive play and porous defense, all the while going with an offensive gameplan that is getting eaten alive by the opposing defense….this is commonly referred to as “smittyball.”

8 ) Fixing both the offense and the defense is key here. One thing that Smitty can’t control is turnovers. Guys on the offense (Ryan more than anybody) simply cannot turn the ball over. That said, certain kinds of playcalling puts our offense at risk of being predictable and dangerous (to ourselves), thus leading to situations ripe for turnovers or “3 and outs” where even a FG is not possible.

The defense needs more work than the offense, however, and this makes no sense with two DCs on the CS. The defense needs to be built for the long haul. Ready to play 60 minutes of in-your-face. The best path to this is instituting a 3-4 base and shoring up the DL and LB units.

9) Hard to say. Andy Reid got about 14 chances.

10) Hope so, because he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But it may be a false hope. Smitty has “just don’t lose the game” coming out of his pores. It’s depressing, really. He does not seem to want to crush opponents. Therefore, this team also doesn’t have this attitude.

11) Good coach with a few critical flaws that are just critical enough to keep this team from taking it all unless something changes.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2013
3:00 pm

The way teams come back on the Falcons, it seems they make changes and the Falcons
don’t.

That would be coaching, and nothing else.

BirdDawg

January 28th, 2013
3:22 pm

Anyone know the scoop regarding Julio last night?

D3

January 28th, 2013
3:47 pm

Even though Smitty is very conservative and changes on a glaciel pace, he has shown some areas where he’s changed up a little, so there’s a little hope he can continue to change:

1) Less run-oriented
2) Move away from power back
3) Seemed to learn his lesson on playoff preparations from 2010.

I know, it’s not much, but maybe with another year of Koetter and most importantly no more Turner, he can finally start to fix some of these issues (killer instinct, 2nd half collapse, player development).

Big Ray — Thanks for mentioning the cross-training thing. That is another thing that has absolutely driven me up the d@mn wall. Blalock excelled at RG so we move him to LG. Konz was best center in draft, so we move him to RG. Clabo was once a RG, so we move him to RT. Reynolds ALWAYS played RT, so we move him to RG. Hawley was good at UNLV as a center, so we move him to RG. I mean dayum!

Arno

January 28th, 2013
3:51 pm

Valiant effort to be fair, D3. The truth hurts, but not looking at the truth will hurt more. Failures do not bother me when I can see that the effort to solve them is fluid. I summarize much of the criticism of Smith as his remaining static. Smith cannot be static in the face these last two games’ second half, billboard sized fiascoes. On the bright side, Koetter and Nolan definitely changed the flavor of team this year. For a fleeting moment (after the Bronco game), I thought we were going to have a D to be feared! The new coordinators suggest to me that Smith is willing to expand his thinking. Let’s see how much more influence they can bring this year. I’m hopeful.

JB Falcon

January 28th, 2013
3:58 pm

D3, a very fair and impartial post. Seems like the only thing we can do is hope. I do believe, with a full draft coming up, TD’s ability to work the FA market and another year’s experience, that we will field a much improved team next year. (I really dislike saying those last two works)
#11, Smith’s past record and accolades does not leave one much room to complain. We have the ingredients, we just have to find the right recipe.

JB Falcon

January 28th, 2013
4:19 pm

It is being reported by some analysts that we will get a 4th round compensatory pick and three more in the 7th round. That is very positive news if it’s anywhere near reliable.

Chop Buster

January 28th, 2013
4:25 pm

1) Straight Shot – Will the Falcons win a Super Bowl under Mike Smith in your opinion? I believe we can. We were damn close to getting there this year. Maybe Koetter will get to implement more of his offense this year and less of Mularkey’s old play book.

2) Does Smith get enough credit for the success he’s had since he’s been here? Not really. People seem to demand more no matter how much you give them–they’ll always want more. Once we win a SB then people will start talking repeat and dynasty. The bar gets raised higher as you accomplish more.

3) Who is mainly to blame for poor development: Smith, Dimtiroff, or both equally? I think it’s a combination of some of the players lacking what it takes naturally. When you’ve played ball in H.S. and college, by the time you get to the NFL you SHOULD be fundamentally sound in most cases–again SHOULD. But when you’re not, that’s what the position coaches are for and if I blame Smitty for anything, it’s not holding his position coaches accountable. Like you said, same issues that were here when TD and Smitty arrived is still an issue…no pass rush, lack of tackling, weak OL, DBs have gotten slightly better, and LBs have gotten worse. We need some hunters on this defense who bring it every single game. Did you see SF’s defense joking and high-fiving for doing their job? No, those guys are serious about shutting teams down. We’re not there yet. Part of that is coaching also.

4) Is there a major problem with player development in your opinion? Well, I believe Nolan as DC is over the DL, LB and DB coaches so things may change if he sees players not developing like they should.

5) Will Smith get rid of his “Witness Protection Program?” He seems to be coming around very SLOWLY. Seems you have to prove yourself before he’ll trust you in the game (McClain). Matthews and Massaquoi got a little playing time this year, but that probably was more Nolan than Smitty.

6) Are Falcons fans jaded to regular season success? That’s history and they’ve moved on to Championships now. Smitty knows how to win during the regular season, but now he needs to learn to be very aggressive in putting teams away for four full quarters.

7) Why does Smith preside over so many 2nd half collapses (formerly 3rd quarter lulls)? Old school mentality of milking the clock with the running game. You may have gotten away with that in the past, but with many teams having the ability to score under a minute now, you can no longer sit on a lead. The other part of that is definitely the defense’s lack of pass rush and ability to shut teams down in the second half. Is it lack of quality play makers or strength/conditioning?

8.) How can he fix the second half issues? Get some defensive–and more offensive–play makers through the draft and FA and keep attacking throughout the game on both sides of the ball.

9) How long with Smith get to win a Super Bowl in your opinion? I think he needs to play in at least one SB within the next two years. It’s crazy because when you think about it, how many HCs have ever come in an won as many games as Smitty in his first five years? Not many that I can think of.

10) Is Smith able or willing to develop a killer instinct? I think Smitty is a passionate guy and attempts to instill an attack mentality in his players. Problem is part of our team is soft offensively and defensively. We only have a few players willing to go to war every game. We need more of them. Smitty does need to show his team he won’t stop being aggressive and hold them accountable when they perform at a subpar level.

11) What’s your overall opinion on Mike Smith as it currently stands? I think he’s slowly trying to change. I think he holds Nolan in high regards and can be nudged into learning how to keep his foot on a team when down. He knows he is lacking play makers that’s why he said his defense was not at the level of they need to be. I believe he wants to duplicate the defense Nolan ran during their time with the Ravens.

Paddy O

January 28th, 2013
4:40 pm

It is what it is. I pray that either TD or Arthur sit down with an honest question for Mike – why are we allowing teams to come back? We get out to a great start – which is great. But, we allow teams to come storming back. The best game this year was the Giants. If we played that way the entire year, we could go undefeated.

Wings

January 28th, 2013
4:46 pm

D3 you have done a lot of work, and I am amazed how you can state the case so eloquently different after every season.

It is the same song but fifth verse.

Paddy O

January 28th, 2013
4:48 pm

As he who shall not be named says, all teams have holes and bad tendencies. The Falcons could have won that game. We ate 2 “hot” teams up in the playoffs. We FINALLY eliminated the 2 consecutive running plays behind Turner, up the middle, which left us in many 3rd & 8’s. We added the screen pass, which gave Ryan a MUCH higher passing % and much better offense. We just need to keep bringing explosive plays in the 2nd half. WE like to sit on leads. This is fine against mediocre and worse opponents. AGainst guys in the playoffs, it comes down to what we just witnessed. YOU can NOT sit on leads. The biggest failure of the Smith coaching paradigm. As stated LAST off season, If I’m TD – I order Smith & Welcome Back to score 35 prior to go into “sit on lead” status. And, keep the score UP by 21 while IN sit on lead status. We have the tools (or did, with Tony G).

Chop Buster

January 28th, 2013
4:58 pm

Paddy O – “I pray that either TD or Arthur sit down with an honest question for Mike – why are we allowing teams to come back? We get out to a great start – which is great. But, we allow teams to come storming back.”

If I’m not mistaken everyone in the organization gets a report card at the end of the season. Smitty and his coaches go over the season with players, the coaches are evaluated by Smitty and finally Smitty by TD/Arthur. I thought they said they do this at the end of every season.

Chop Buster

January 28th, 2013
4:59 pm

Continuity my 4:58 post: I do hope TD has a talk with Smitty and his staff to get to the bottom of why we let teams back into games in the second half. This has been a trend for quite some time now. We’re ALL tired of seeing us get big leads only to watch it disappear.

Chop Buster

January 28th, 2013
5:00 pm

Oops “Continuing”

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
7:42 pm

Spot on D3….although I an think of “a cage member I won’t name” who D3 could had acknowledged when talking about the value of consistency.

But really, turnovers was the word in the playoffs, not trying to sit on leads…especially in the 49ers game, when you turn the ball over, you can only hope that your lead holds, it not like it is some sort of gameplan thing…..as ugly as a Turner -2 yarder is, it is way better than that fumble the snap play, we need to take that one out of the playbook…..Who said we need more Shotgun? I noticed that guy has not shown his face around here in awhile.

In the playoffs, we put it on Ryan’s shoulders, we saw the game we all knew we had, JJ going deep, Roddy and TG making plays, using our talent and weapons, Ryan putting the ball in tight windows. But in the end, that is a flawed plan, you have to have balance, when it is 3rd and 4 on the 10, a minute on the clock and 2 timeouts, and the other team puts 5 in the box means that the other team knows you are afraid to run it……Throwing into the teeth of the D all day is just asking an awful lot of your QB….That is why we lost that game.

ATLBIG FALCON FAN

January 28th, 2013
7:48 pm

just come back in 2013 get problems solved draft some defensive players a running back…falcons come out angry in 2013…..GOALS IN 2013 BEAT HATED RIVAL AINTS TWICE..SECURE HOMEFIELD..STORM THROUGH PLAYOFFS WITH ANGER…WIN SUPERBOWL FOR THIS CHAMPIONSHIP STARVED CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unca' Bob

January 28th, 2013
7:58 pm

D3,

A masterpiece my friend!! Very well thought out and presented. I am Wowed!!

falcon21

January 28th, 2013
8:02 pm

@ 7:42, heard that before and heard it and heard and heard it.

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:05 pm

D3, in the words of the great Gap Bad, OUTSTANDING!! This is a knockout. You have done some great ones in the past but brother, you really hit a grand slam with this post.

The TeePee will have to take its time and come back and answer each question with the style, knowledge, and conviction in which you authored this masterpiece. Stand by…

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:23 pm

1) Straight Shot – Will the Falcons win a Super Bowl under Mike Smith in your opinion? The TeePee is really torn on this one. I really do not know if CFA (Chief, Football Administration) Smith is the man for that job. I and beginning to sense the second coming of Andy Reid here. It can not get any better than having home field twice in the last three years in the playoffs. It can not get any better than having a bye before the divisional round. But what did we get in BOTH appearances; a total second half meltdown and a pathetic effort defensively. Not once, but twice.

2) Does Smith get enough credit for the success he’s had since he’s been here? CFA Smith has been an outstanding manager for the recovery from hell that this franchise was sent crashing into. He has been rewarded for his work and I will leave it at that. Winning 56 games in five seasons is a fine accomplishment. But, in the TeePee’s opinion, it has much more to do with the offensive talent we had than anything that CFA Smith has directed, implemented, or “coached”. Mad Mike was a poor pass calling, predictable OC but his offense was a rushing powerhouse. We used ground and pound to re-establish credibility in the ATL. DK came in and used a lethal arsenal to make us one of the league’s most impressive passing offenses. But what is the common thread to our short comings; predictability, inabilty to adjust when needed, and defensive ineptness. And that, along with the coordinators that orchestrated it, is the bottom line responsibilty of CFA Smith.

3) Who is mainly to blame for poor development: Smith, Dimtiroff, or both equally? General managers acquire the talent that is supposed to make a football team good or if it is good, better. We will never know how well most of TD’s acquisitions could be because they are either in the WPP as outlined by Big Ray OR they are patients at a Grady, Northside, or Piedmont Hospital rehab center.
In all fairness though to TD, I am going to give the brunt of the blame to the CFA and his staff.

The Time is NOW

January 28th, 2013
8:28 pm

D3 – Thanks for the balanced assessment of our head coach. I appreciate what you do.

My (crow-eating inspired) thoughts on your questions will be coming soon…

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:32 pm

4) Is there a major problem with player development in your opinion? Simply put, there IS NO player development program in the CFA regime. MR2 was a first round draft pick and we had nothing else to use as our quarterback. He was instantly the face of the franchise and had to play. AB had to win back the fan base with an element of confidence; he had to give us something we could look to the future and say OK about rather than look back and say, damned. Bring in MT33 to help that young QB was an outstanding move by TD. But you tell me for one moment of any player that was not a first rounder (Ryan, Baker, Weatherspoon, Jones) that has shown you anything in the way of long term upside and value. This staff is pathetic in player development.

5) Will Smith get rid of his “Witness Protection Program?” One can’t get rid of the shadow that follows them. MIke Smith is as set in his was as the gold is present on the state Capitol dome or the potholes are in ATL streets. WPP is here to stay….

6) Are Falcons fans jaded to regular season success? Absolutely. You tease us with a fine glass and the appearance of a premium champagne only to end up with a damned Dixie cup and Boone’s Farm when it matters most. Sick of it….sick of it.

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:41 pm

7) Why does Smith preside over so many 2nd half collapses (formerly 3rd quarter lulls)?

8.) How can he fix the second half issues?

Two words. Coaching and adjustments. And guess what. CFA Smith has not shown an ability, in a consistent manner, to do either when it matters most. Two straight weeks in the 2012 playoffs, TEs served as the assassins of choice against the ATL defense. With THREE defensive coordinators on that sideline, the Falcons could not figure out how to stop the execution of the same damned play over and over again. Zach Miller, Zach darn Miller, looked like a perennial Pro Bowler. The rushing defense, in WPP all season long, did not disappoint in the playoffs. It remained consistent; allowing Frank Gore to gash us time and time again as he rushed for over 100 yards.

Only out of necessity did we see any substitutions…even when silliness sustained drives and inept play kept hopes alive.

Coverage…or the lack thereof was not a new thing. To say we played soft is an understatement.

Collapses. Sadly, I came to expect them. And it hurts just as much now as it did during each game I was forced to sit and sweat it out.

How do we fix them? Sadly, I have to be honest with myself. I see the same fate destined for CFA Smith as I saw Andy Reid encounter in Philly. Close but no cigar. And trust me, I truly do not want to feel that way.

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:44 pm

7) Why does Smith preside over so many 2nd half collapses (formerly 3rd quarter lulls)?

8.) How can he fix the second half issues?

Defense…defense…defense. Fix the damned defense!!! Play with aggression, attitude, and a desire to be great. Make history not become a doormat to it. There are THREE DCs on this staff….you can not tell me that they can not find away to get this thing fixed. If they can’t, then back up the UHauls and send them packing….

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
8:46 pm

@ 8:02. So have we not heard about the Witness Protection Program? Or do we only allow “new” topic?

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:53 pm

9) How long with Smith get to win a Super Bowl in your opinion? Big Ray is dead on with his Andy Reid comparison. That is exactly what I see when I think of CFA Smith.

10) Is Smith able or willing to develop a killer instinct? I certainly hope so but I am really not feeling it. Tom Coughlin changed and it worked for him to the tune of two titles. I pray that CFA Smith will see the light and give me a little bit of Tom and a lot less of Andy.

11) What’s your overall opinion on Mike Smith as it currently stands? My new title for him says it all. Chief, Football Administration. Not seeing a coach. Not seeing a motivator. Not seeing the fire that the great ones bring to the equation. GIve me a little Lombardi. Give me some Tom Landry. I will even settle for a little Dennis Green (yes, that damned defense is what we thought they were and the are STILL getting off the hook). Give me a football coach…not a football administrator. That is what TD and Rich are supposed to be. And they are good at it.

Give me a head coach, please.

JB Falcon

January 28th, 2013
8:58 pm

21, re; 8:46. When the lone ranger and tonto were surrounded by Indians the lone ranger said “what are we going to do Tonto?”
Tonto, “What do you mean “we” PALEFACE?
Yeah, I got a twisted sense of humor and you have to have some wear on you tires to remember The Lone Ranger.
In modern day times. A wreck looking for a place to happen.

SeminoleWarrior

January 28th, 2013
8:59 pm

Summary.

CFA Mike Smith is a fine man. He has been a tremendous asset to the Atlanta organization. I am very thankful for the hope that he has given this team. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.

But, at least for me, the time has come to take it to the next level. The inconsistency of the defense has got to stop. The inability to develop and sustain quality depth on this roster must stop. The great unknown consumes as many pages of the team handbook as media relations, biographies, or ads.
That must change.

ATL is at a crossroads. Tampa, Carolina, and New Orleans are coming. Seattle, St. Louis, Washington, San Francisco. They are all coming if not here.

Change for the better, CFA Smith. You are on the cusp of doing something special. Do not let the window close. Please, do not become Andy.

falcon21

January 28th, 2013
9:10 pm

LOL JB. SW, we were so so close. The Coach seems to be learning but very slowly. We need two more steps, get there and win it! We have some holes to fill but I think TD will get his part done.. It will be up to the Coach to finish the deal.

The Time is NOW

January 28th, 2013
9:15 pm

1) Straight Shot – Will the Falcons win a Super Bowl under Mike Smith in your opinion?
Yes.

2) Does Smith get enough credit for the success he’s had since he’s been here?
No. Fans will never be satisfied with the coach of their team unless the team wins championships (preferably for multiple seasons in a row).

3) Who is mainly to blame for poor development: Smith, Dimtiroff, or both equally?
4) Is there a major problem with player development in your opinion?
5) Will Smith get rid of his “Witness Protection Program?”
These three questions are tied together. Our current Falcons laid their winning foundation in 2008 utilizing a veteran (though not necessarily established) core, which included the FA addition of 4th year RB Michael Turner (who had not previously been a starter). In addition to the veterans, we added rookie starters at QB, OT, LB, WR and safety. Along the way, we have drafted players who have started at DT, DE, OG, C, WR, LB, CB and S (although some of these have not been consistent starters). We have also drafted players who have been in the playing rotation for a variety of positions, including OL, DL, WR and RB, as well as a Punter and Long snapper. It has been my observation, that if a player is not a high round draft pick or physically superior athlete that there is a development period before they are prepared to perform on a consistent basis in the NFL; there is a learning curve – especially in the trenches. Becoming a starter in the NFL is frequently more about perseverance than it is about talent. The better the team is that drafts a player, the harder it is for the rookie to make the team. Making the team with a winning franchise is a big deal. For a rookie to prove to the coaches that this winning team has a better chance to win on a consistent basis with them than the veteran starter ahead of them is a difficult accomplishment. All of this means that the jury is still out. Some of the guys who have been lost in the WPP may yet emerge as long term starters. Some undoubtedly won’t. Putting together a roster is an art, rather than a science. For the last 5 years, the Falcons front office has done a consistent job of fielding a winning team. Time will tell whether they have stockpiled talent efficiently enough to continue to get the job done or whether they will fade into rebuilding mode as their 2008 veteran core ages and is replaced.

falcon21

January 28th, 2013
9:16 pm

JB, it is out of control now, the big wreck is not far away!

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
9:20 pm

SW, people say we would get along, not true. I am with ya on 8:59. Smitty brought a winning formula to the Falcons when were in desperate need, a winning formula for the first time in franchise history

However, I am not entirely convinced that his winning formula will transcend into a new system. What I saw in the playoffs was a hint of what we can be, and a hint of some serious deficiencies, primarily on the defensive side of the ball, but some things with our QB too…If you turn over twice in the 2nd half of a playoff game, your going to have a hell of a time winning, and that is the antithesis of Smittyball.

We will find an awful lot next year…..Because as much as I agree about our inability to develop some players with specific examples, my common sense tells me you not go 5 winning years, culminating in a 13-3 league championship game if you are not developing somebody somewhere. But regardless, next year either the chickens come home to roost, or we will be hosting the lombardi. I would be surprised so find much in between.

Ken Strickland

January 28th, 2013
9:29 pm

What SEMINOLE WARRIOR said D3. First and foremost, we need an upgraded pass rush. That will work wonders for improving our secondary and pass DEF. Secondly, we need to improve our run DEF.

We’re not lacking in interior DL talent, but we’re lacking in consistent production. When your run & pass DEF is heavily dependent on schemes rather than individual talent, it makes it easier for teams, and harder for us, to make successful halftime adjustments.

I don’t have a clue what makes our staff give up on our younger players so soon, even though they’ve shown promise during preseason, on special teams & during gms. We’ve got to give DEs Sidbury, Massaquai & Mathews a chance to compete for a DE position.

Offensively, I think we should move Konz to OC, Clabo to RG and Holmes to RT. I find it hard to believe these moves wouldn’t create a noticeable improvement in our OL. Our 1st 2 picks should be for a TE & RB, especially if Alabama’s RB Lacey is available. I’m hoping that a successful return of FB BEwing will also help improve our rushing OFF.

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
9:30 pm

I also don’t have a huge problem with our O line, especially if that LT can play half as good as I hear about….I also hear that Keithphillip Manly is somewhat of a monster. And our Oline had absolutely nothing to do with us not winning in the playoffs.

So, except for a RB, I would like to see us go all D. And while I am not as eager to jump in the inability to develop players as the rest of the cage, I do wonder about what is going on our Dline.

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
9:32 pm

Ken, get ready to defend your TE suggestion…..thats all Im gonna say about that.

The Time is NOW

January 28th, 2013
9:41 pm

6) Are Falcons fans jaded to regular season success?
No, they love it. But they are pumped to win a Lombardi and silence the biased national media who gives this franchise very little respect for their progress over the last 5 years.

7) Why does Smith preside over so many 2nd half collapses (formerly 3rd quarter lulls)?
MS certainly bears some responsibility here as the head coach. However, I believe that some of this phenomena is a reflection of inconsistent QB play. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that I do not appreciate the talent and contributions of Matty Ice. Without him, I don’t think the conversation would be anywhere near the same. But I have noticed the play calling evolve when we have leads over the last few years. Frequently this year our 3rd qtr. woes came after this sort of sequence: 1st down – deep shot incomplete (going for the jugular); 2nd down – run, short pass, or incomplete pass; 3rd down – incomplete pass or just short of converting. Matty Ice plays at his best when the team jumps out to a quick first down. Maybe the deep shots are coming at the wrong times. Recently, the 3rd qtr. play calling has not been what I would call conservative (run, run, pass, punt). Matty Ice is at his best when the clock is ticking down. His down side is that he has lulls in every game where he doesn’t seem to be clicking. Coaching is definitely required to fix this problem.

8.) How can he fix the second half issues?
You got me. (Guess that’s why I’m not a coach.)

9) How long with Smith get to win a Super Bowl in your opinion?
Depends on how the transition goes this year.

10) Is Smith able or willing to develop a killer instinct?
I have seen signs that indicate he wants the team to get it. Whether or not he will suceed remains to be seen.

11) What’s your overall opinion on Mike Smith as it currently stands?
Good coach. Those are hard to come by…

The Time is NOW

January 28th, 2013
9:52 pm

Make no mistake, the defensive talent requires some serious adjustments (either through scheme or player additions, or both). My hope is that Nolan will be listened to about what needs to change. I imagine he’s got some pretty good ideas.

JB Falcon

January 28th, 2013
10:04 pm

It’s been good reading tonight with various opinions so, when your computer goes haywire, sometimes the best thing to do is re-boot.
The Falcons have 11 draft picks this year, something we haven’t had in two years. We will fix the shortcomings we have had and come back next year with a vengence. We will lose some players and we will get some bigger, stonger, and younger players coupled with a new 3-4 approach.
And as the news comes on I hear LA is trying to get Blank to move the Falcons there. That, to me would be a political move by Blank to sqeeze more money out of the state of GA.

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
10:07 pm

1. Will they win a Superbowl under Smitty? Impossible to know, the average team has about 3% chance…I would like to think ours is a little higher.

2. Does Smitty get enough credit? His peers seem to think he has done a pretty good job. From the fans? meh.

3. The development question? I am not sure I buy that there is a problem, I just don’t think it is all that easy to crack the lineup of top NFL teams. We have a lot of examples, but I just don’t know how it measures up with other franchises…..Like I said, next year will tell us a lot. You just can’t win year in year out without a good developmental program.

4. Witness Protection Program….I fault the AJC by giving too many articles about a players favorite color, and none whatsoever as to what is going on in the practices. Again, I just don’t buy in hook, line and sinker that we have a “problem”, other than on our DL….Smitty and TD do need to sit down and figure out what is going on there.

6. Jaded fans? Ya think?

7. 3rd quarter lulls is a better description than collapse….But for some reason, we ALWAYS get the ball in kickoff, either the other team defers, or we choose it….Maybe if we get the ball after halftime own day, it will look a little different.

8. 2nd half issues? Well, if you are referring to how are we going to hold leads, we need to be able to run the ball, if for no other reason to get the defense to respect the run.

9. Killer Instinct? You mean like Bill Belichick? Hmmm.

10 When will he win a SB? Hopefully next year.

11. My feeling on Smitty? It is a sign on the world today, we want it all, and we want it now. I thought he was a horrible hire, he proved me wrong and made a fan out of me. This year we broke more ground, got our playoff win, made more progress. I just never knew when it became Superbowl or Bust for the Falcons……but, that says something.

The Time is NOW

January 28th, 2013
10:13 pm

MB you sound like you are trying very hard to be reasonable.

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
10:16 pm

I know this, if/when Smitty hits the market, he will be snapped up pretty quick. I think other than our receiving corps and QB, our talent level is very average, and the rest of the NFL knows it…..

Now, maybe we have hidden gems in the witness protection program, but I can look at a handful of snaps against some 3rd stringer on TV in a preseason game and make any intelligent evaluation…

Matty Bicep

January 28th, 2013
10:30 pm

Time, I took your advice and don’t allow myself to get baited. I see the same things as others, and I just don’t know about our developmental programs, I just don’t. But I do scratch my head and wonder about our DL, especially Sid, the guy proved that he can get to the QB last year in a regular game… But I just have to think if he is out there killing it at practice, Nolan sticks him out there…..Again, the AJC has just fallen down on coverage, and just lets us take stabs in the dark.

Big O

January 28th, 2013
10:55 pm

Very good article. There is definitely a third quarter problem; and, the appearance of being a bit hide-bound with not enough flexibility and perhaps even some misuse of some players. Example, Kroy Biermann is more effective as an OLB than a DE. And I do not understand what’s going on with not using Sidbury! The man has size, strength and 4.5 speed for Heaven’s sakes! If he’s not strong enough for DE like Biermann, he has the speed to play OLB. Sure would have liked to have seen how he looked at OLB. Sidbury is actually faster than Dent and Biermann. Or maybe put Biermann at MLB and Sidbury, with his speed & size at OLB covering the TE.

Mike

January 28th, 2013
10:56 pm

First off Smitty is due credit for coaching a disciplined team that rarely does things to beat themselves. That generally is the mark if a good coach.

Then there is TD. Overall has done a pretty good job. I think me with many others were screaming for a pass rusher in the off season last year ( though that ended up asking a lot… M Williams received a massive contract and Aveil was slapped with the tag). It’s hard to argue with getting Julio and relinquishing so many picks. Many argue we could have held serve and still picked up Torey Smith… No knocks on him but he isn’t Julio.

So I have a theory here of the workings is Smitty. I think Smitty is among the best game planners in the biz. Rarely does his team take the field and seem to be outclassed from the initial snap. Usually the first 1 1/2 to 2 quarters other teams are taken to school. So I would contend as far as initiating and implementing a game plan it does not get better than Smitty. But then in Smitty world there is the time to be an innovator, the heat of the moment… This is where he has failed and failed miserably. Whether it be ultra conservative or an attempt to keep the foot on the pedal. It is my perception that when it is time for a little improv ( taking what you are given) Smitty panics in these situations. The tension oberflows and pours into other coaches and players. My advice for Smitty is either come to terms with that’s who you are… And leg the team know this I’d me but doesn’t have to be you… Other option is when the script runs out and you are calling the game on the fly, have some Prozac ready.

Mike

January 28th, 2013
10:59 pm

Ok I really hate auto correct

MaxxFalcon

January 29th, 2013
1:17 am

I actually have to disagree with some of this. You could make an argument that Smitty has dne a bery good job kverall in developing players. Vance Walker was a 7th round pick who has become an impact player on Defense. Kroy Biermann was a 5th round pick who has excelled into a solid and versatile player. Spoon, WillyMo, Grimes, Decoud are just some of the guys that Smitty/Dimitroff have drafted and done a good job of developing. Garrett Reynolds and Todd McClure were clearly better options to start at C and G than Peter Konz at the beginning of the year. Sidbury is a mystery to all of us. Cliff Matthews contributed nicely once Ray “Fruit of the loom” Edwards was gone. If the Falcons had the running game we used to have and our Defense was better, teams wouldn’t be coming back in us like they did this year