What would it take for Falcons to keep Mike Smith?

Can Falcons coach Mike Smith save his job with just a division title? (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Can Falcons coach Mike Smith save his job with just a division title? (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Can Falcons coach Mike Smith save his job with just a division title? (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

It’s guaranteed that the NFC South champion won’t have a winning record and — with the Falcons and New Orleans tied at 5-8 with only three games to go — even .500 is the long shot on the board.

That’s key when determining the futures of Falcons coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff because nobody expects owner Arthur Blank to keep his football operations staff intact after consecutive losing seasons.

Unless . . .

Let me preface this by saying I believe the decision to fire Smith has been made — I’m less certain about Dimitroff — and something would have to happen to change Blank’s mind. Something like: a long playoff run. In other words, I don’t believe if the Falcons go 7-9, win the South, make the playoffs and lose in the first round that Blank will stick with the status quo.

He knows he can’t sell that to the public — and by sell, I mean in terms of perception, tickets and PSLs.

But what if the Falcons win a playoff game? Or two? What would it take for Blank to maintain confidence in Smith and/or Dimitroff?

First, let’s look at the three principles in the NFC South “race”:

— Falcons (5-8): Games remaining: home vs. Pittsburgh (8-5), at New Orleans (5-8), home vs. Carolina (4-8-1). They’ve played better in the second half of the season but the defense still can’t get a pass rush and the health of Julio Jones (hip) and William Moore (ankle) is in question this week. They played a strong second half in Green Bay but to project that out and assume success in the final three games is dangerous, to say the least.

— Saints (5-8): Games remaining: at Chicago (5-8), home vs. Falcons (5-8), at Tampa Bay (2-11): New Orleans has lost four straight home games and appear to be in full meltdown mode. Expect defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to be looking for a job after the season, and suddenly there are rumors that coach Sean Payton also may be in trouble. Payton is trying to shake things up. He met with 10 players for individual meetings, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, is benching starting safety Kenny Vaccaro this week and waived wide receiver Joe Morgan. But I won’t write off a team with Drew Brees at quarterback.

— Panthers (4-8-1): Games remaining: home vs. Tampa (2-11), home vs. Cleveland (7-6), at Falcons (5-8). Until Cam Newton’s scary car accident Tuesday, which left him hospitalized with two transverse process fractures in his lower back, I actually thought Carolina might be the surprise South winner. The Panthers have a favorable schedule and they looked good in last week’s 41-10 win in New Orleans. Hey, it could still happen. But probably not.

That’s where things stand. Here’s the poll question: What should it take for Smith to save his job? I’ve listed several possible answers.

Sound off below and vote in the poll.


A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
 — MyAJC: Hawks go from off-cour embarrassment to on-court success
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— AJC: Jimbo Fisher leaves Georgia off ballot; Bielema puts Tech 19th on his (huh?)
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— MyAJC: SEC title: Mizzou can’t compete with Alabama –nor can any team
— AJC: Short takes: Sims leads way as Alabama rules SEC again
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Georgia Tech ends Florida State’s run
— AJC: New rankings make college football playoff look like set up
— MyAJC: Rare situation: Eyes are off Bulldogs and on Jackets
— MyAJC: Tech’s Bobinski finally stops stalling with Johnson
— AJC: Georgia Tech finally offers Johnson contract extension
— MyAJC: Finally, a real football team named Falcons shows up
— AJC: Falcons’ short takes: Devin Hester says officials admitted mistake
— MyAJC: This Georgia season was just another big tease
— AJC: Georgia ‘short takes’ on loss to Georgia Tech
— MyAJC: As Georgia loses SEC title shot, Tech suddenly has higher ceiling
— AJC: Missouri wins SEC East — will it affect Georgia?
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs win, Falcons lose, toys devolve
— AJC: Tech’s Johnson long overdue for contract extension
— MyAJC: Tech’s season a loud response for Johnson’s critics
— AJC: First-ballot thoughts: Smoltz should join Maddux, Glavine
— AJC: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech: Which team has had better season?
— MyAJC: Gurley’s injury should prompt change in NFL draft rule
 

Reader Comments 0

170 comments
maps_retired
maps_retired

After Falcons beat Denver in SB how can you fire Smith. But he could retire ON TOP. back to my regularly scheduled hallucination.

Aztec
Aztec

This team needs football players.  The offense line and the Defense are awful.  That is the GM's department.  This team is weak because of lower round picks.  Any fool can made a first round pick.

kdwood
kdwood

Its not Smiths fault.  They have the worst defense in the nfl and their o-line is awful.  Dimitroff needs to go and we need to get some talent in there.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Dude, are you asleep? The Falcons played a game since you wrote this.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

"Let me preface this by saying I believe the decision to fire Smith has been made — I’m less certain about Dimitroff...


Tell me WHY A. Blank should keep Dimitroff around?  To use the old Parcellsism about buying the groceries, Dimitroff has been getting groceries at the dollar store.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Dimitroff should be the first one out the door and will create a PR disaster if left in place next year. The active roster is unimpressive and he has a long list of mistakes that are no longer with the team. Most of those are out of the NFL completely. Smith needs to go as he's lost the team but Dimitroff is the worser of the two

SeanLB
SeanLB

When was the last time the Falcons won a big game?  Don't tell me about hanging on against Seattle in the playoffs.  I mean...a REALLY big game?  1998?  


Great, that's all I need to know.  Yes, you're all fired.  

Okeetee
Okeetee

If the Falcons somehow win this Division (not going to happen unless Julio is healthy) and then draws either the Cardinals or the Lions in the 1st round.....they could conceivably get to the 2nd round..... to get pounded by either the Sea Hawks or the Packers! If they do that, Smith might keep his job for one more year, with the hopes that this team gets better next year!  Normally, 7-9 would get you fired, especially after last years melt down.  I suspect Smith is a goner no matter what happens this year.  He's a heck of a nice guy and a true Southern gentleman!  But he's just in over his head with strategy and in game adjustments.       

oldbirddawg
oldbirddawg

I can't place much blame on Smith other than two idiotic clock management losses. The roster is bare of NFL talent, especially on defense. Trufant is the only player we have on the defensive side of the ball that could start anywhere else in the league.  Firing Mike Smith for this team's performance is like firing a jockey for not winning the Kentucky Derby while riding a mule.  Fire the guy who bought the mule, Dimitroff.

TrueFalconFan
TrueFalconFan

GM Thomas Dimitrof in my opinion is more on the hot seat than HC Mike Smith. 


HC Mike Smith, if there is some way AB can look into a crystal ball and determine if Mike Smith is not burn-out. Then there is a strong case to keep him on. That being said, his staff will need shuffling up again. For sure on defense ie Mike Nolan would be out! I think Bryan Cox is a keeper! On offense Dirk Koetter stays & for sure Mike Tice! ST Armstrong, maybe.


OK now next three games, in my opinion, whether the Falcons win NFC south title or not there should be a major shake-up at Flowery Branch! Also i think HC Mike Smith has a special connection to his players, "They like this guy a lot", folks don't be surprise to see the Falcons win out the next three games and lose in the 1st game of playoffs. At the rate it's going we'll probably see Tony & da K-Boys. So the writers point in the beginning of this article, you are right-on Jerry Jones is a better GM than GM Thomas Dimitrof. 



Go Falcons - Steelers next 

CarltonWest
CarltonWest

The flaccid, feckless Falcons will be brutally battered into submission by their next three opponents, and who really cares?

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Jerry Jones has literally blown the doors off of Thomas Dimitrov as the respective GM's of their football teams! One team is on the way up with strong drafts and signees – the other is on the way down with bungled trades, drafts and signings.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Let's congratulate our rock star GM Thomas Dimitrov for his fine work here in Atlanta! Some of his great pick ups include the great Ray Edwards, the great Perea Jerry, the great Sam Baker, the fantastic Peter Kunz, the incredible Rasheed Hageman, the incomparable Osi Umenura, and the incredible Dunta Robinson. Meanwhile, let's not forget the incredible move bringing in Steven Jackson to shore up our running back situation. And I am still thrilled that he was able to steal Julio Jones by simply giving up five key draft choices to move up 12 slots. Who else could've put together a shrewd trade like that? yep, there's no doubt about it – the man's a genius!

Please disregard the fact that he dumped Brent Grimes, John Abraham's, and pretty much the entire high-quality offensive line we had three years ago during our playoff run! Yes, I can see this has all been Mike Smith's fault!

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@TreeRollins You can't have your cake and eat it too.  Julio Jones is a proven star.  Using your rationale (which is correct: Dummykopft cannot draft squat) means: Had he not traded five draft choices for JJ, then he would have drafted five squats, adding to your list of failures above, and keeping us from having the talents of Jones (who has led the Falcons to victories, as a star).  Ergo, leave the Jones deal out of the evaluation.


FootballTopFan
FootballTopFan

FootballTopFan(c) support Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith  !!!


We urge Falcons owner Arthur Blank to give Coach Smith a vote of confidence.


The Atlanta Falcons still have a chance to play in the Super Bowl.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@FootballTopFan I have a chance to flap my arms and fly to California and climb one of the tallest trees in the world. Naked.

DrPhill
DrPhill

Dimitroff and Frank Wren were separated at birth.

TampGator1
TampGator1

Only Bill Belicheck would have a better record with this team than Smith.  2/5ths of the offensive line gone.  Playing your third center picked off the trash pile....and he is playing well.  No DEs that would be a starter for any other team in the NFL.  No LBs that would be a starter on any other NFL team and might not even make the roster of most NFL teams.  Moore missing at safety for most of the year.  The #2 corner gone.  Smith is the best head coach the Falcons have ever had and most of you want to fire him like the Georgia fans want to fire Richt.  Who are you going to hire to replace him......the motorcycle riding coach in cowboy boots that gave away a future NFL HOF QB.   

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Agree that Mr Hair Gel is the real problem with the lineup and thus the team. Keep him around and it won't matter what coach you hire!

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Huh? You think every other NFL coach except Belicheck would have lost those two games by clock mismanagement like Smith did? I beg to differ.

reckingball
reckingball

The Falcons should have 7 wins right now(with the personnel that they have playing), and that is the fault of the head coach.

Smith's conservative in-game decisions and trying to nurse 14 points leads for 3 quarters, has cost the Falcons many wins throughout his tenure as Head Coach.

TampGator1
TampGator1

@reckingball 


Yeah....the Falcons have been real conservative this year on offense.  They were completely boring vs. Green Bay the other night.  No offense at all.  Dude....the problem is on defense and that can be fixed through FA and the draft.  Smith is a very good head coach and will be signed immediately by another team if he is fired. 

reckingball
reckingball

@TampGator1

IF the Falcons had even a half-way decent defense(and something that resembled a pass rush), and their OLine had not been decimated by injuries, they would be in the hunt for home field advantage in the playoffs right now.

The GM is mostly responsible for the sorry state of this team. IMO.

But, Mike Smith has cost the Falcons 2 wins due to poor in game decisions, this season.

BTW, in the Packer game they had to let it all hang out in the 2nd half, no choice.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

That was just in the 2nd half when Falcons came out desperate and Green Bay came out nursing a lead. If Falcons offense was that prolific they'd have scored more in the 1st half and would have won several more games this year by scoring 30+ points.

Okeetee
Okeetee

@TampGator1 @reckingball 

.....our offense has sputtered many times this year due to pathetic play calling on the conservative side and that's probably Smith's fault, correct?  More play action passing plays, roll outs...anything but up the middle when everybody in town knows it's coming is pathetic play calling!  

reckingball
reckingball

Dimitroff should be the FIRST person fired, he does not seem to a have any ability in evaluating talent.

Jason West
Jason West

Now before we start the hate on TD... There is more to managing a team than we know, or could even imagine - there is a lot that goes on behind closed doors, that none of us are not aware of. Isn't is the responsibility of BOTH the GM AND coach to select the incoming talent? From what I see, the talent is there, but the development isn't being facilitated - the sole responsibility of the coaching staff. This isn't TD's team to coach. 

TampGator1
TampGator1

@Jason West 


Injuries to the starting safety, the #2 corner, and the best LB on the team, the starting center, the starting right tackle (who was starting to play well), the #2 cornerback, the best safety on the team. and the best LB on the team....along with no NFL quality MLB on the roster....has really hurt the Falcons this year.  Hard to coach through all that.  I think Smith has done fairly well based on all that. 

-sting-
-sting-

shoulda been fried in london. couldn't have lost a second game and we would be in the drivers seat!!! ;-) awful job mow for the past 30 games. can't say his almost losing to seattle and then losing to the niners after getting big leagues were flukes.

Look pick up the phone and call Dan Reeves, let him GM and Coach. In 2 years we will be in the Super Bowl.

SimpleDawg
SimpleDawg

Gee, what a bad time to have the Falcons go in the crapper.....what with the new Zillion $$$$ stadium, and those nasty PSLs, looming on the horizon.


TD has made a bunch of really bad personnel moves, and Smitty's short comings have been widely exposed..... The Falcons would have to win the Super Bowl to bring back these two.


Maybe Mr. Blank will stop bringing his whole extended family down to the sidelines for victory celebrations.

notPlanB
notPlanB

I want MS gone but TD even more. MS isn't a bad coach. He's just not ready or experienced enough to win a SB. He would probably help a team like Jacksonville or Oakland.

SeanLB
SeanLB

Why is it so difficult?  Have they "got it done"?  Nope.  Clean house, top to bottom.  We have some talented key players.  Time to let a new regime try to build a winner, because these guys have gone as far as they can go.  

BillFalcon
BillFalcon

Smitty has some issues, we all agree.  Nolan is using smoke and mirrors.  Koetter may have finally been cured of bubble screenitis.  But, whatever you say about the coaches, the guys are playing hard. The problem is the team has below average talent and that falls on the GM.  We must change the GM at season's end and let him decide on his coaching staff.

creative
creative

over = against.  Sorry I'm an idiot

creative
creative

This is the biggest argument over the 8 game playoff with 3 at large in college.  I'm not going to spell it out.  You either get it or you don't 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@creative

OK, I admit it. I don't get the correlation between Smith's job status with the Falcons and the argument against the eight-game playoff format at the college level.

Help me out here.

JLTee
JLTee

I'm a Nolan apologist, I guess. But I have a tough time pinning our losses on him, given Dimitroff has given him GSU's defensive talent to play with. Nolan was built solid & tough defenses everywhere he's gone. Has he all of a sudden forgotten how to coordinate? I think not!

Dimitroff said, "hey, I'm going to take away Abraham (a year earlier than I should) and give you and over the hill Osi. I'm going give you undrafted and lower round rookie talent (Shembo, Starr, Worrilow) to play linebacker and never replace Curtis Lofton or make up for the egregious mistake of drafting Peria Jerry over Clay Matthews (during a year we needed linebacker talent in '09). I'm going bypass going after veteran pass rusher talent (Dumervil, Peppers, Allen) and potential cheap rookie talent (not willing to move up for Mack or move down for Barr). However, I'll give you Maponga, Goodman, Massaquoi, and Matthews...quantity over quality! I'll expect your defensive backs to chase WR's around the field for 12 seconds because we don't believe in sacks...we want to move the QB off their spot!"

This is what are DC had to work with...a DC that has put together stout defenses. I'm sorry, but Mike Nolan and Mike Tice with the OL get a pass.

TampGator1
TampGator1

@JLTee 


Smith, Nolan, and Tice are all very good NFL coaches.....but the Falcons have sustained way too many key injuries this year and lack NFL talent at LB and DE.  Hard to win the in the NFL without those two positions being played by high caliber players.  That is not Smith's fault....or Nolan's fault. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

This article makes NO sense. Blank can't sell the stats quo to the public??? What pray tell is he already doing with the PLAYERS, say, the defense? Running back? (I'll cut him some slack on the offensive line due to injuries).


Let's say the Falcons go 8-8. People will say if it weren't for Smith's buffoonery the team would have been 10-6. In reality, this is NOT a good football team, very deeply flawed in ways that may take YEARS to correct. The only reason they can potentially hit 8-8 is because the rest of the division is garbage and they run the table through them. Otherwise, this team is the dregs of the NFL.

TampGator1
TampGator1

@DawgDadII 


I completely disagree with your assessment of this team. There is nothing wrong with the Falcons offense right now despite key injuries at RT and OC.  Tice has really coached up the replacements....big time.  The Falcons are a pass rushing DE and two good NFL LBs from being a very good team again....with Smith as the head coach.