Say goodbye to Falcons, Smith, but Blank handled this poorly

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, pictured here before Sunday's loss, just couldn't wait to look for coach Mike Smith's replacement. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Arthur Blank, here before Sunday’s loss, just couldn’t wait to look for coach Mike Smith’s replacement. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

UPDATE: For the full game column, click here.

The Falcons are dead. It’s official this time. With a chance to win the NFC South and go to the playoffs, abysmal won-loss record notwithstanding, they lost to the Carolina Panthers 34-3 at the Georgia Dome and finished the season at 6-10. I’ll return soon with my column off the game. Until then, here are my three “Short Takes” on the game.

1. Goodbye Smitty but shame on Arthur Blank: The Falcons went into the game with a chance to go to the playoffs if they defeated Carolina. But in one of your all-time buzz-kill moments — and one that was orchestrated by the team’s owner — ESPN reported before the game that the Falcons already had hired a search firm to look for a potential replacement for coach Mike Smith. This isn’t about whether Smith, for the past several weeks, has had a realistic chance to keep his job. (He hasn’t.) This is about dreadful timing by Blank. He could’ve waited on this, and it certainly was within his power to make sure this news didn’t get out. Understand, only two sides will know when an owner hires a search firm: 1) The owner; 2) The search firm. And search firms don’t talk. Say what you want about Smith, his coaches and the team’s players but none of them deserved to be treated like that by Blank before the biggest game of the season.

2. It starts up front — and ended up front: The Falcons’ biggest problems in the past two seasons (combined record: 10-22) have come on the offensive and defensive lines. So it should come as no surprise that in their 2014 exit, they were dominated on both lines. Matt Ryan was helpless (not that anything excuses throwing two pick-sixes). He was pressured by Carolina’s defensive front throughout and and sacked six times. The defense seldom pressured Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. A case could be made there was incremental progress in pass protection this season but the line was undone by injuries. But the team’s defensive plan to clog space in the middle with big tackles (Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai) and free pass rushers on the outside (Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Babineaux, Osi Umenyiora) never developed. It was a significant fail this season by general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

3. Panthers may not be an easy out: I understand winning the NFC South shouldn’t come with a parade or a playoff berth this season. But Carolina could prove to be a difficult opponent in the postseason. The Panthers were 3-8-1  before winning their last four games and Newton is playing his best football of the season. Accuracy has been the biggest knock on Newton but he was on target early in the game and had would-be long touchdown pass dropped by Kelvin Benjamin.


A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Falcons hire search firm — hey, nice timing, Blank
— MyAJC: Julio Jones has reaffirmed his worth to Falcons
— MyAJC: Christmas is 12 days? Well, this calls for presents
— AJC: With Bobo gone, should Richt call plays again at Georgia?
— MyAJC: Even amid gloom, Falcons showing positive signs
— AJC: Hey Hawks, here’s your chance to get Josh and Joe back!
— MyAJC: Falcons can make most of this illogical journey
— AJC: Short takes: Falcons stun Saints, and it’s thanks to the defense
— AJC: Live: Falcons finally in a can’t-lose situation
— MyAJC: Falcons still have playoff shot — and that’s not a negative
— MyAJC: There goes Justin Upton, and maybe ’15 season with him
— AJC: Justin Upton is latest chapter of Braves’ strip down
— MyAJC: Ranking Atlanta’s head coaches, from Budenholzer to…
— AJC: After crushing Cavs, Hawks (18-7) have earned some attention
— MyAJC: Expect Falcons’ roster overhaul, regardless of finish
— AJC: 5 thoughts on Falcons, starting with Arthur Blank’s marketing problem
— MyAJC: John Hart: ‘It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees’
— AJC: Falcons reality check: One great half won’t get it done
— AJC: What would it take for Falcons to keep Mike Smith
 — 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

Reader Comments 0

349 comments
Bug
Bug

I cannot say what blank actually is here, but I can say that keeping the real loser Dimitroff and firing Smith will tell you one thing.


The talent level on this team will not change until Dimitroff is gone.


And Tom Landry, Don Shula or even Lombardi could not have coached this team to 1 more win with the talent level on this team.


And no coach worth having is going to take this job with the lousy talent on the roster and not want the GM'S job to go with it.


Who could blame them, who wants to work with Dimitroff.


He Drafts you get fired.

Mr-Buckhead
Mr-Buckhead

Rise Up !!!

Nothing says Happy Holidays

like a new Shovel !!

AMEM , AMEN !!!

keendaddy
keendaddy

I'm not an expert. I don't get paid to coach football or analyze it either. Some self appointed experts on here, would try to lead you to believe that Mike Smith is an innocent bystander. Well, don't buy what Candyland14, is selling. Just read his last few posts. He blames everyone except Smitty. Candyland14, kinda sounds like Mike's wife or maybe even Smitty himself, lol!

Two years ago in preseason, first game, our Offensive line got Manhandled. Smitty said, "Oh, we'll be fine! " Well, he said the same thing after the second and third, and fourth. Then we had a horrible year, but he kept saying that the Offensive line was going to be just fine! Lies, upon more lies. He has little problem lying to the Fans.

Same thing this year. One of the Worst Offensive line's, ever. Oh yeah, "We'll be fine! " Hey Candyland14, we managed 3 whole points at HOME with this FINE OFFENSIVE LINE!

Yes, our Defensive line is anemic too, that's why TD has to go too.

Honestly, I would be okay with this; replace the GM first (too late), then let him decide Smith's fate. I for one, am sick of his constant lies. Smitty couldn't tell the truth if he had to.

Adam007
Adam007

It  would be nice to have a better owner in Atlanta. Blank was a little better than the Smiths but not much.

Mistake #1 Michael Vick

             #2 Firing Dan Reeves 

               #3 Dimetrof

               #4 Pushing Vick around in his wheelchair on National TV (How demeaning).

Mr Haney
Mr Haney

I think Mr. Blank has a plan. He is conservative and methodical he doesn't want to rock the boat anymore than he has to. I think he wants to talk to coach candidates and see if THEY want Dummytrof or if they have another GM in mind. I hear he is easy to work with so a Coach  may be able to have his way with him.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Schultz, to point #2: Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Babineaux, and Osi Umenyiora are NOT "pass rushers". On most teams Biermann is depth, Babineaux is a rotation tackle, and Umenyiora is nowhere to be found.

keendaddy
keendaddy

BTW, I do have a Vick jersey hanging in my closet. I forgave him long ago. He paid for his transgressions. When he was our qb, I wore it, but not since. Players have done a lot worse than him and not lost what he lost. He paid for his crime. He's a man...

Mr-Buckhead
Mr-Buckhead

@keendaddy You mean to say that you actually pay out your hard earned money to buy an overpriced jersey with the name and number of any athlete... who will be forgotten very soon.

keendaddy
keendaddy

Dude, it was a Christmas present. What was I supposed to do, give it back? Besides, I look good in black!

Mr-Buckhead
Mr-Buckhead

@keendaddy tou·ché my friend. At least it wasn't your own money. I too, look good in black...or red.

keendaddy
keendaddy

@Mr-Buckhead I'm sure that you do!

keendaddy
keendaddy

Fans like Candyland14, are the reason why this team is in the gutter. He supports a

loser to the end. He doesn't read others post, because only his opinion matters. If you have a different opinion, he attacks you personally like a child. So I guess, Candyland, is appropriate for his name.

All of you Falcon fans say it with me, "Mike Smith is the best Coach Atlanta Could ever have!"

Yeah we get it Candyland14, you got a crush on him. I've already said get rid of TD too, and I suggested going after Gruden.

Obviously, you think you are the only person worthy of an opinion. That pretty much makes you a narcissist. An immature one, to boot!

BCW1
BCW1

I thought AB had more class than this...shameful and classless to leak that info prior to the game yesterday.

OldBlindDawg
OldBlindDawg

Smith did a great job leading the team - then TD systematically dismantled the roster. Now everyone (well at least the fans that are clueless) lays the blame on Smith. 

ccrider27
ccrider27

Great column, right on the money. 


In the end Smith had a 60% winning percentage. No other Falcons coach has come anywhere close to that. Two years ago it was 70%. But then the Falcons management began trying to save money and stay well under the cap.


Anybody who watched any of the games with even one eye open should have been able to tell the problem was mostly with the OL. Put that together with the fact that the Falcons are way under cap and what do you get?


Another MBA whose mantra is 'do more with less.' Yeah, well it doesn't work that way.


I just hope all of the people who were clamoring for Smith's dismissal will be around a year from now so they can take 'credit' for how well things will have gone. 


But I doubt we'll hear a squeak out of them.


What a shame! It seems the Falcons are doomed to be a crappy team for ever.

WestgeorgiaJacket
WestgeorgiaJacket

Blank needs to go to the owners box and if he has anything to say he needs to do it at team meetings. The coaching staff needs to go. I saw another comment that said smith was the best coach ever here in Atalanta. What a joke. Reaves was far better and the only coach to get Atlanta to a super bowl. I see some people raging on Ryan but with the pressure he is under it would be hard for any QB. I am not a huge NFL fan but do follow the Falcons and I would say its time to clean house. After the last two seasons you have to wonder why we were not already rebuilding after the horrible record we have had. Fire em all anything is better than the last two years.

WestgeorgiaJacket
WestgeorgiaJacket

@candlin14 @WestgeorgiaJacket Bottom line is results Smith and the whole bunch is falling short. Turner had to learn to get out of the way in the Braves organization Blank will have to do the same. Its house cleaning time in my opinion everyone should go and players should be reevaluated and Blank should consider his organizational leadership skills. 

candlin14
candlin14

@WestgeorgiaJacket @candlin14


Do you realize what cleaning house does?? Do you want to see a horrible team for the next three years??? We have had two rough years under Smith. It started once our pass rush came to a halt!!! I'm pretty sure the most valuable franchise in football (THE COWBOYS) went through a rough six year stretch with ROMO!!! Man you fans kill me who want to get rid of the positives with more negatives!!!! Get rid of the GM and hunt down pass rushers in free agency along with offensive lineman in the draft. House cleaning is not necessary. Fixing the Defense is

Aztec
Aztec

@candlin14 @WestgeorgiaJacket The Falcons must rebuild this team through free agency and the draft.  Free agency takes money and that comes from the owner not the GM or the Coach.  A search team!  This is not Home Depot.  Arthur should know the available talent by now.  If he doesn't, then he is the problem.  

keendaddy
keendaddy

@Caius

Guess he's next! One beheading at a time....

candlin14
candlin14

@keendaddy


KEENDADDY, you're an idiot my man. No reason for SMith to go. Horrible fans like you are the real problem. You are probably one of few still wearing your #7 Vick Jersey huh!!

keendaddy
keendaddy

@Candylandy14

You still play Chutes and Ladders in your Mom's basement?

OldBlindDawg
OldBlindDawg

Hey Arthur - all 2 x 4's are not equal they come in different grades  - same can be said about football personnel.


Hire a competent GM and get the hell out of the way. Oh yeah please get off the field - I tune in to watch the game and players - not you - your sweetie or a couple of dozen kids. 


You are an embarrassment to once proud sports fans. 

Caius
Caius

Lets see. Blank fired the only coach to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl and now will fire the winningest coach in Falcon history.


What is the status of the worst GM the Falcons have had in their history?

candlin14
candlin14

@Caius


AGREED!!! I use to like Blank and I still think he will do whatever it takes to win but he has definitely made some awful decisions. I think we should keep Smith and go after Dummytorff, Koetter, and Nolan. Nolan is not as good as people think. A good friend of mine played for the 49ers back when Nolan was there and he said Mike Nolan defensive schemes are like ROCKET SCIENCE!!! TO HARD TO UNDERSTAND!!! Last time I checked, our defense isnt made up of MIT grads!!!

keendaddy
keendaddy

Stick a fork in Smitty, he's done.

keendaddy
keendaddy

Lighten up on the caffeine and the caps! Gruden is light years better....Many others....

candlin14
candlin14

@keendaddy


and who do you think is out there that will be better him?? Please dont say Rex Ryan because Smitty has a far better record with the falcons then Rex does with the Jets. Also, any of these top tier coordinators are not proven!!!! KEEP SMITH AND START BY FIRING DIMITRIOFF!!!!

candlin14
candlin14

Well Atlanta, all of you so called passionate fans out there who want to see the best coach this city has ever had get fired, you people are flat out IDIOTS!!! The reason a Harbaugh, Cower, Gruden or anyone of this caliber will NEVER come to Atlanta is because we have the WORST fan base in the NFL!!! We allow the Steelers Fans, Cowboys Fans, 49er Fans, Giant Fans, and other premier teams fans to dominate our own stadium. We have classless and most of all SEASONAL fans here in Atlanta. 


So most of you idiots want to blame the Detroit Game and the Cleveland Game on Smith. What about Matt Ryan throwing the worst interception in the history of the NFL during that Detroit Game?? What about Julio Jones dropping a critical pass to keep the clock moving??? What about our 32nd ranked defense???? In the Cleveland Game, Smith did make some errors at the end of the ball game but once again, its the players who are on the field competing.


ATLANTA quit wishing for a top tier Coach because you WILL NEVER GET ONE!!!! This is the best coach we have ever had and unfortunately he is NOT THE PROBLEM... We have a horrible GM and that is it!!! PERIOD... Start with getting rid of Dummytroff and Koetter and go from there. Draft DEFENSE and sign DEFENSE in free Agency and see where we stand next year. Getting rid of a winning coach is not the answer especially when the man was dealt the worst hand imaginable!!! WAKE UP ATLANTA!!! Start supporting your teams instead of always pointing the finger!!! WE HAVE THE WORST FAN BASE IN THE COUNTRY!!!!!!

keendaddy
keendaddy

Candyland14

just another fake Atlanta Falcon fan. Everything is the Falcon fans fault, lol! You moron, you ever thought that the fans are only as good as the team they support? Give us a decent product. Mike Smith tried to tell us this was a decent team, but even Stevie Wonder could see, this team was flawed. Smitty lied too much. The Atlanta fans are through with his approach.

Personally, I will be shocked if AB doesn't fire TD this week. The guy knows zip about OL/DL lines. This organization needs an overhaul, from the top down.

Idiots like Candyland14, think Mike Smith will take us to the "Promised Land", instead we ended up at the landfill, with a mediocre Draft pick.

Hey Candyland14, ***34-3*** to Cam at HOME.....GREAT GAME PLAN SMITTY! (I'm sure it was the Falcon's fans fault....)

keendaddy
keendaddy

Hire an experienced GM, and beg Jon Gruden to take total control of the Coaching!

candlin14
candlin14

@keendaddy


I like the Gruden idea but it will never happen. He hates Rich McKay. McKay is another bad apple in this organization.

wkirspel
wkirspel

I understand that the timing of getting a search firm in was questionable. But I also think that with the Raiders, 49'ers and Jets looking they need to get this thing done quickly. The 49'ers and Jets are particularly attractive franchises given location. So I wouldn't have had an issue if they got a firm on board mid-season. Letting it leak is another thing. Although I don't agree that only Blank was aware of the hiring.

TyroneMartin
TyroneMartin

Well at least Blank decided to keep the GM, so with him still in the mix, I'm certain he will continue his ways of drafting bad players to compete against us.

adarian652
adarian652

Firing Smith is not the solution. The Falcon don't have any talent and that's on the GM!!

candlin14
candlin14

@adarian652


Couldnt agree more!!!! Anyone who is a true fan understands that. Smith is not the issue. Its hard to win with a 32nd ranked defense!!!

FanSinceBartkowski
FanSinceBartkowski

@adarian652 I agree and I'm confused by people who think this is a talented team. Smith has the most wins and best winning percentage of any Falcons coach. With the passing of time, he'll be fondly remembered just like Reeves is starting to be.


As strongly as I feel that talent is the real problem, I don't think anyone who disagrees is not a true fan. Most people agree that Andy Reid is a great coach but his time had come in Philadelphia. I hope we're able to get a good coach who can turn the team around the way Smith did in 2008. I just hope we don't end up with 8 losing seasons like we did after firing Coach Bennett, the first Falcons coach to leave with a winning record.  Mora and Smith are the only others to do the same.


Also, if it turns out to be true, whoever leaked the hiring of the search firm before the game yesterday should also be shown the door.

TyroneMartin
TyroneMartin

Saints are going to miss old smithy, we were 13 and 6 against them with him as the head coach.

FanSinceBartkowski
FanSinceBartkowski

@TyroneMartin Hmmm, 13+6 is 19 games. Since we play each other twice a year that would be 9 seasons throwing out the extra oddball game that slipped in your numbers somehow. Didn't realize Smith had been here 9 years.


Just to set the record straight in case anybody other than the trolls care, Smith was 5-9 against the Saints in his 7 years with the Falcons.

cloudodust
cloudodust

Build a house upon sand and it will sink. Coach Smith was not the sole architect of the current football debacle in Atlanta. The current situation brings back the memory of the blasted Smith family ownership of the team and dispensing Coach Leeman Bennett after finally bringing football success to the city. Afterward, it took many years to get us back. Please Mr. Blank, don't repeat THAT history and if you do, you have the obligation to FIX what you've broke, then we'll see what you're really made of...Can do or not.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Well, Smith's gone. Haven't seen anything on TD. Keeping him would be a travesty.

forexbomb
forexbomb

Another example of someone having a lot of money, that is totally classless and stupid!  Great Job Mr. Blank... and to think we correlate intelligence with some one having money...  What  a complete JOKE!

SOB
SOB

A first time rookie amateurish owner hires a first time rookie amateurish general manager who then hires a first time rookie amateurish head coach. No wonder we s***. Can't fire the owner. Fire everybody else. Hire an experienced hard nosed general manager. Give him one instruction. Then get out his way. The instruction? Hire an experienced hard nosed NFL proven head coach to coach the team. And here's the main thing I hate about Mike Smith. He couldn't give an honest straight forward answer to a question if someone was holding a gun to his head. He darts, and dodges, and sinks into ridiculous coach speak drivel. Act like a man!!

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

Good article, by the way, Schultz.  Constructively critical and honest.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

Love Smith as a person, but he is not a head coach or owner of the team. Plus he does not hold the money. Hate for anybody to lose a job but fans pay to see the best team, and we all know this has not happened. Multiple penalties on Ryan never called. Officials had a bad day too. A lot of Film the NFL needs to see during that game

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Another Problem...........MATT RYAN.............Now I see why Bloggers in the past have called him "CHOKE"!

BSNBC
BSNBC

Stop showing pictures of the Weasel!

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Mike Smith is not the problem.


No players....which falls on the GM and the Owner.

jimbob22
jimbob22

@UnbiasedObserver I agree.  It's a very talent-poor team.  Not sure why the local columnists think that they're loaded with talent.