Not long ago, more than a few folks wondered who Mike Smith was and why the Falcons hired him. And now, 17 months on the job, Smitty finds himself rated in the upper 25 percentile of the NFL’s head coaches.
According to RealScouts, which is Sporting News Today’s evaluative panel of former NFL scouts, Smith is No. 8 among the elite 32. He trails Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Andy Reid, Jeff Fisher, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Ken Whisenhunt — three of whom have won Super Bowls, six of whom have been to the Super Bowl.
Admittedly, this was the year to move upward, what with Tony Dungy, Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren no longer coaching and Lane Kiffin having moved his genius to the SEC. Still, eighth for a guy who hasn’t won a playoff game — and who has worked only one season as head coach — is heady stuff. (And Smitty is ranked one spot above John Fox and 12 above Lovie Smith, both of whom have taken teams to the Super Bowl.)
And we know Smith is ranked where he is on merit. Because when it comes to on-the-record schmoozing, he’s among the worst. This isn’t a criticism: Smith is a genuinely nice man who works hard at saying little. (Belichick, by way of contrast, is a genuine pill who works hard at saying little.) As if to underscore the point, Sporting News Today runs a Q&A with Smitty on the facing page, and he says absolutely nothing.
And where, you’re wondering, might Jim Mora be in the rankings? No, not 32nd. (That’d be Josh McDaniels, who succeeded Shanahan in Denver.) Young Jimbo, entering Year 1 as the head Seahawk, is ranked a suprisingly kind 19th, which puts him ahead of Lovie Smith, over whom he was hired to coach the Falcons in 2004. Writes SNT’s panel: “Mora is smart and will learn from his mistakes in Atlanta.”
(I used to think Mora was smart, too. Then I decided he was just a smart-aleck. But I digress.)
Kudos to Smitty, who has come a fur piece, as we say in Kentucky, from his year as an assistant at Morehead (Ky.) State, where he ran a Christmas tree farm on the side. And an early happy birthday as well: Mike Smith turns 50 this Saturday.