Six years later, the Falcons finally manage to hire Tim Lewis

This one looks a little odd. The Falcons pushed aside the Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas as their defensive backs coach and — as reported Monday by esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetterhired Tim Lewis, who has been fired three times in six years. But the Falcons don’t see it as odd. The Falcons have, you should know, liked Lewis for a long time.

Indeed, the Falcons interviewed Lewis for their head coaching vacancy in January 2004 and seriously considered hiring him. (More seriously than they considered Lovie Smith, who would be named the NFL’s coach of the year in 2005 and would take Chicago to the Super Bowl the next season.) Rich McKay, who headed the search, and Arthur Blank thought Lewis was smart and committed and organized, but they had one problem.

He’d just been fired by Bill Cowher as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator.

If you’re looking for a guy to replace the famous Dan Reeves, it’s a tougher sell to your paying public if said guy has been canned by his previous employer. (The idea is to hire a hot coach, not a cold one.) So the Falcons went with Jim Mora, with whom they were also impressed. He lasted three years.

Lewis has since made the rounds. He was the Giants’ defensive coordinator from 2004 through 2006 and got fired by Tom Coughlin in January 2007. He worked as Carolina’s secondary coach for two seasons and managed not to get fired. He moved to Seattle to work as DBs coach under Mora last season — small world, isn’t it? — and three weeks ago both were out of work.

And now, six years later, the Falcons have hired Tim Lewis. The search this time was headed by Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, who aren’t easily impressed, and the job is fairly essential. The Falcons ranked 28th in a 32-team league against the pass in 2009 and have a slew of young defensive backs — Thomas DeCoud, Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, William Moore, Christopher Owens — who need instruction.

This, in sum, is a hire that needs to work. I’m guessing it will.

93 comments Add your comment

Whopper Dawg

January 26th, 2010
1:12 am

First? Needs to work, Seattle finished 28 in pass defense last year. Good hire? Don’t think.

Joe's place Joe speaking

January 26th, 2010
1:14 am

First! Thanks mark. Good read. One question though, Who would have been a better hire?Considering we were as bad as we were and he was as bad as he was last year.

Dannyboy

January 26th, 2010
1:14 am

Being first at McDonald’s feels better…plus they got that $1 menu…

JB22

January 26th, 2010
1:16 am

Actually, Atlanta was 28th and Seattle was 30th.

Mark Bradley

January 26th, 2010
1:16 am

Whopper Dawg, you earn the kudos.

Ginger

January 26th, 2010
1:17 am

Hope so…..thinking that Dimitroff and Smith know what they are doing…Falcons must get better in pass defense.

Mark Bradley

January 26th, 2010
1:17 am

I think Lewis is a good coach and will fit this staff nicely.

Mark Bradley

January 26th, 2010
1:18 am

The Seahawks actually finished 30th in pass defense. The Falcons were 28th. But Lewis was working for Mora in Seattle; he’ll be working for Smitty here.

Ginger

January 26th, 2010
1:29 am

Offenses are so high powered now…New Orleans is so tough passing the ball. Would like to see Lewis teach aggressiveness under control…Jam the receivers then get in position to make play on ball or deliver a tough hard hit that dislodges the ball….Seems like our DBs were not making plays on the ball or out of position….Not sure if we got to the QB enough this yr with either sacks or hurries etc…Wonder if the Progression of the passing game with these 4 receiver sets etc…led to the Coach Emmitt being let go….did Falcons just feel like it was time to make change or the 28th in the league unacceptable or Coach Emmitt not up with the times….

James

January 26th, 2010
1:34 am

Mark: good point. I guess judging someone by their work under Mora is like… I can’t even think of a metaphor for that.

Something silly, that’s for sure. Coach Smith is a defensive guy–he wouldn’t work with someone who won’t do a good job.

James

January 26th, 2010
1:35 am

Just realized what time it was. Man. Have to be up for work at six.
Whelp. Gonna save this beer for the morning, then. Goodnight.

Mark Bradley

January 26th, 2010
1:37 am

Smitty expects certain things from his coaches. And it’s worth noting that Emmitt Thomas was a holdover from previous regimes.

mmgtfan

January 26th, 2010
1:45 am

Mark that’s two night in a row you’ve posted blogs at 1. Livin la Vida Loca I see

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 26th, 2010
1:47 am

Thanks Mark for your kind word! Seattle was ranked 30th in pass defense last season. But my Green Bay Packer folks fave about him as a person.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

January 26th, 2010
1:47 am

tjhook

January 26th, 2010
2:12 am

Ledbetter, don’t take this criticism too hard, but you always try to present the sunny side of a person the organization (Falcons) present. Tim Lewis looks like a skeptical hire and if he starts out poorly, we will be quick to judge. That’s just life. We look at a person’s life cycle when they are ascending to a position of influence.

mmgtfan

January 26th, 2010
2:18 am

Mark this is the second night in a row you have posted a blog at 1. Livin la Vida loca I see.

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Bill

January 26th, 2010
3:28 am

Welcome Coach Lewis.

Dr. Warren

January 26th, 2010
3:56 am

Seems like he may be a better person and interviewee than coach–or that he is quirky in some way and needs to find the absolute perfect fit. It’s ironic but predictable that Mora–who apparently is a master interviewee–would hire Tim Lewis. Birds of a feather flock together, to some extent. Hopefully, Lewis’ feathers will molt seamlessly into red & black.

dagnabit

January 26th, 2010
4:38 am

Maybe ginger is right. The problem could be at the D-line.

Nanook

January 26th, 2010
6:00 am

Dannyboy, boycott McDonald’s, go to Burger King, or even Krystal. (The reason being their mighty empire suing that teen girl up north for using McFest for a Charity event, Mcsomething or other being her name. Evil Corporate Bastidges) James, judging someone by their work with Mora is like… how about judging how well a kisser you are from what your sister rates you??? And I agree with Ginger, teach our DB’s to jam, and stay in position!

Benjamin

January 26th, 2010
6:16 am

Question:

Wasn’t Emmett Thomas the gentleman who took over for Bobby Petrino after he slithered out of town? Despite their performance of a year ago, I was somewhat surprised when we booted Thomas out of town…

lanier

January 26th, 2010
6:17 am

all pro DB’s have the tangibles or they wouldnt be there. its the intangibles that seprate the elite. those can be taught.
get on it Coach Lewis or Smitty will run you too

Nobis and Noter should be in the HOF

January 26th, 2010
6:18 am

Thomas had a lot, an awful lot, of youth to work with, and his db’s were hurt, not helped, by a lack of a good, consistent pass rush. Not having big Grady to consume the middle and allow Abe to go one-on-one was a huge factor. The last few weeks of the season, the db’s played much better. Sorry to see Emmitt go, he was a class act.
Good luck to Coach Lewis, without a pass rush, you’ll need lots of it.

F-105 Thunderchief

January 26th, 2010
6:19 am

Coach ‘em up, Timmy!

drew

January 26th, 2010
6:21 am

Well I just hope he’ll teach our cover guys to PLAY THE FREAKIN’ BALL instead of chasing receivers around with the hope of tackling them after they catch the ball.. I know, I know…it’s probably the toughest job in pro sports, but you can’t make a play on the ball if you NEVER LOOK FOR THE BALL!!

And yeah, a pass rush would definitely help.

mike

January 26th, 2010
6:23 am

Lets see other coaches get fired and hired all the time. Is there a particular reason why this is pointed out so much with Mr Lewis and not others?? Heck you even had one coach lie on his resume and he still winds up with a coaching job. Who ever the falcons hire does not matter. The falcons might try winning more games than the other teams in the league next year. But if they win 1 more game than they lose it will be a crowning achievement. Plus we can always blame everything on Mike Vick. You know the guy they talk about here when there is nothing else to talk about. Go Saints!!!

bob

January 26th, 2010
6:37 am

Pass rush is the key to any pass defense. Falcons need DL. Abe getting old and will need to be replaced in a couple of years, but needs help. Wish we could trade up to get Suh?

Singletary

January 26th, 2010
6:53 am

Tough crowd. CoachET was a huge Brent Grimes promoter, now Mr. 42″ Vertical is going to have to fight to hang on to his slot. I’m glad you are with this pick, Mark, because a “Mora refugee” just doesn’t “sit right” yet.

Halsey

January 26th, 2010
6:54 am

Seattle’s leader in sacks last year was Patrick Kerney…with 5. I don’t buy their low pass defense ranking being the fault of one position coach.

TheAntiMe

January 26th, 2010
6:55 am

The coaching is not nearly as useful if you don’t have the quality cornerbacks who can execute. As opposed to not-so-good cornerbacks who after they give up 20 big plays a game, you want to execute.

F-105 Thunderchief

January 26th, 2010
7:16 am

Hey, D-Led, did you mean rave, instead of fave? I really don’t enjoy this. But, I try to be gentle.

Benjamin

January 26th, 2010
7:20 am

I don’t think Grimes has much to worry about holding onto his job; the guy was a borderline Pro Bowler this year, in my opinion, with 66 tackles and six picks to his credit.

He can play beyond his small frame.

Rick

January 26th, 2010
7:22 am

Mark,

Good read, keep up the good work. As a “sports writer” in todays generation negative comments toward the journalist are a given, but continue to stay the coarse so those of us that actually appreciate hard work and inquisitive minds can continue to enjoy great articles.

jborodawg

January 26th, 2010
7:48 am

Preston

January 26th, 2010
7:55 am

Hell, hire Willie Martinez. The last time he coached DB’s under BVG he was a great success.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

January 26th, 2010
7:57 am

Brett Favre

January 26th, 2010
8:00 am

Quick, someone tell me that I am the greatest QB to ever play the game( and I am ). Otherwise, I will retire for two months and then play for Arizona. I like bacon.

Accountant

January 26th, 2010
8:03 am

Sorry Bank Walker, you were actually 36th.

VP

January 26th, 2010
8:04 am

If could just get those guys to turn their head around, we’ll be fine back there. They can cover most receivers, it’s their technique that’s lacking.

DDawgDavis

January 26th, 2010
8:11 am

DB/S Vs. DL. Which is it? The Chicken or the Egg? How about both in our situation! Fine a new coach will breath some fresh air in a declining Secondary, but new players might hold some of the responsibility. DeCoud is quickly becoming a play-maker, but it would be nice to have partner and Moore, I think is going to be an injury liability.

DL, #55 isn’t getting any younger and we can’t dismiss Jerry because he was showing he could play before the season ending injury. FA could help or taking a Pierre out of South Florida.

Either way we need to bolster both so both can succeed. DRAFT Taylor Mays!

FalconDawg

January 26th, 2010
8:15 am

I totally agree with you, VP. Also, it wouldn’t hurt if we could improve our pass rush to help the db’s out a little.

dc

January 26th, 2010
8:21 am

Brett Favre, you ARE a great one. If that final pick you threw had fallen incomplete, your kicker would still haave had to make a very long field goal. I’d say a 30-40% shot. It seems all the talking heads want to blame tou for the loss, but forget about Butterfingers Peterson, Harvin fumbling inside his own 20, and Berrian fumbling going in at the 10. Your team outgained the Saints by 200+ yards and your team had NUMEROUS fumbles, but everyone seems to blame you.

bugman

January 26th, 2010
8:30 am

I don’t think you can single out the D-back position when examaning a pass defense. Several other variables factor into the total rating (d-line pass rush, L-backers, technique taught, game plan, quality of opponent, skills of your cover guys). I can’t judge Tim Lewis on his firings or pass defense rating. Working for Jimmy Mora? THAT makes me nervous.

Hope you are successful here, Tim.

All I'm Saying Is...

January 26th, 2010
8:38 am

Welcome Coach Lewis but this hire obviously has next to nothing to do with his track record. The performance of the Falcons secondary in the 2009 season also apparently has nothing to do with decisions made by TD and Smitty either. This coaching change and getting rid of the trainer Medlin are obviously meant to deflect blame from the shared decision-making of TD and Smitty. What do I mean? Glad you asked. Read on:

TD (and Smitty I guess) decided that what we had on our roster was good enough to let the best cornerback we had — Domonique Foxworth — leave for the offer from the Ravens. Doesn’t matter if Foxworth was worth the money the Ravens gave him. Question is whether we had the personnel to replace him. Clearly, between Chris Houston and Brent Grimes we did not.

TD (and Smitty I guess) also decided to make wholesale changes on defense in terms of letting personnel go (you all know their names which don’t bear repeating) and their actions still showed that the Falcons had serious problems during our pre-season when the defense was getting exposed especially on third and long situations. Those problems in defending during obvious passing situations did not disappear during the regular season by the way.

So now in apparently, Smitty et. al. had had enough of Hall of Fame Coach Smith and decided they simply needed someone new working with the d-backs. They also decided that despite his 17 year track record with the Falcons which included working with a team that went to the Super Bowl that Medlin our former trainer was somehow a contributing factor to the shortcomings of our defense.

What TD and Smitty really need to do is FOCUS ON UPGRADING THE OVERALL TALENT FOR THE FALCONS DEFENSE PARTICULARLY AT CORNERBACK, determining if Jerry will come back and solidify the interior line, and deciding whether Jamaal has any additional upside and whether we need to replace him. Then they need to use the draft (get a cornerback preferably one with athleticism and size but at least size, edge rusher or another interior lineman to occupy blockers, and more overall speed on defense) and free agency (upgrade our linebacker corps with another veteran stout ‘backer) to take care of business. Enough with the coaching shuffle—get down to real business.

LET’S GO FALCONS!

Reid Adair

January 26th, 2010
8:40 am

If Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith think Tim Lewis can get the job done, I’m with them. He’s moved around a lot, but the Seattle deal was a bad decision on the front end.

BugKiller

January 26th, 2010
8:59 am

Mark,

This is a TERRIBLE hire.

Are you frakking KIDDING me???

This guy gets fired as DC of the Steelers.

THE NEXT YEAR THEY WIN THE SUPER BOWL!!!

This guy gets fired as DC of the Giants.

THE NEXT YEAR THE WIN THE SUPER BOWL!!!

HOW IN GOD’S NAME CAN YOU DEFEND THIS HIRE???

Tim Lewis is a TERRIBLE coach, who, when he summarily dismissed from a team, sees that team become exponentially better.

You’re INSANE, Bradley.

INSANE!!!

collegeballfan

January 26th, 2010
9:00 am

I am about as qualified to have an opinion on an NFL coach as any of your other readers.

Voice of Reason

January 26th, 2010
9:08 am

BugKiller, I see a pattern here – we should have hired Lewis as DC, then a year after we fire him, we win the Super Bowl! Now that is a plan!