Mike Smith joins Dirk Koetter in Tampa; Roddy White next?

Former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, here with Matt Ryan and former Falcons coach Mike Smith (right), is now the head coach at Tampa Bay. (Rob Carr/Getty Images

Former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and ex-head coach Mike Smith (right) have been reunited with reversed roles with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Rob Carr/Getty Images

(Updated: 5:30 p.m.)

The NFC South just became infinitely more interesting — and if the Falcons suddenly find they can’t ascend even past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the division next season, they can blame at least two (maybe three) former employees.

Dirk Koetter, the former Falcons and recent Bucs offensive coordinator, was hired as Tampa Bay’s new head coach on Thursday. Koetter then made his most important hire Friday, and it hit close to home in Atlanta: Mike Smith, the Falcons’ former head coach and Koetter’s former boss, is the Bucs’ new defensive coordinator.

It’s a brilliant move by Koetter for two reasons: 1) No matter how things may have unraveled in his last two seasons with Falcons, Smith has a strong resume as a defensive coach; 2) It gives the Bucs’ two coaches with tremendous insight into a division foe and quarterback Matt Ryan.

“Experience counts for a lot in the NFL,” Koetter said of Smith.

The two also worked together in Jacksonville in 2007, each as coordinators for Jack Del Rio.

“We were both in the press box. I had never seen anybody like Mike Smith before,” Koetter said. “We had a good year. We lost to New England in the second round of the playoffs. Mike was hired by the Falcons the next year. We were never as good after lost Mike Smith in Jacksonville. To get a coach of Mike’s experience, not just as a defensive coordinator and a teacher but as a man, and to have the right kind of guy in front of our players, I couldn’t be happier.”

Smith, who has kept a low profile since his firing after last season, did not return a phone message.

As Koetter, Smith and the Bucs’ front office work to rebuild the team, it’s worth wondering if Falcons wide receiver Roddy White will be the next to transition from Atlanta to Tampa.

Koetter praised White late in the season, saying, “I tell friends of mine all the time that Roddy White is the single-most competitive football player I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve just never been around a guy that his desire to win and compete would let him overcome injuries.”

In a new scheme under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan took a step back and had one of the worst seasons of his career. Also, White’s role was reduced. The Falcons believe the Shanahan-Ryan dynamic will improve in a second season but White’s future is uncertain. He has two years left on his contract (base salaries: $2.75 million and $3 million plus $1.5 million roster bonuses each year). Falcons coach Dan Quinn has said nothing but positive things about White but it seems less than 50-50 right now that the veteran will be kept.

If the Falcons don’t want White back, they will attempt to trade him for a mid-to-low-round draft pick. If they have options, they obviously would prefer not to trade him to a team in the division, especially to coaches who know how best to use him. But NFL trades are rare and if they can’t get a pick for White, they would have to release him.

If White becomes a free agent, he would have multiple offers. But his familiarity with Koetter (and Smith) and the chance to stay in this part of the country near his children and home would be major factors — as would playing against the Falcons twice.

Whether White stays or goes, Tampa Bay is a better team now with Koetter and Smith in charge. Koetter earned the head coaching job because of his work with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston this season. Bringing in Smith should only help the Bucs’ defense. The Falcons had a horrible record against division teams (1-5), in part because they went 0-2 against Tampa Bay. If fired Bucs coach Lovie Smith (4-10 against every other team) could have faced the Falcons more often, he might still have his job.

Smith’s Atlanta tenure did not end well. The Falcons went 4-12 and 6-10 in his last two seasons. Smith’s first five years brought four playoff berths and a narrow defeat for the NFC title. Some believe that fizzle was mostly the result of mistakes in personnel decisions by general manager Thomas Dimitroff (or Dimitroff and Smith in conjunction with each other). But nobody should doubt the Falcons’ did not have the same focus in those last two seasons and Smith made some dubious in-game decisions.

But those first five seasons were mostly impressive, and Smith’s resume as a defensive coach is strong.

The Falcons’ division just got a little tougher, and their two games against Tampa Bay next season just got a little more interesting.

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29 comments
swimfin2
swimfin2

TB is a better team with them and they beat the falcons without them twice last year. Things are about to get ugly for the falcons. Ryan is not a top qb anymore. This is about to get ugly like the braves.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

According to Art Blank, the Falcons had all the good players ( after all why keep Dumbmitroff?), but Smitty was not able to coach them up to their potential.  

he_of_stinky_wind
he_of_stinky_wind

Bucs have 2 big and young receivers.  Don't need a big, slow receiver.

Peachs
Peachs

No Blanks in the fourth quarter on the sidelines will help Smith.  I always felt that little distraction was not a good mix for a coach like Smith trying to win a game and at the end he made some weak third and fourth down decisions in the fourth quarter that undermined a well coached game up till then. 


This freeze out of White has mystified me no end.  You see aging receivers all over the league, but here we waste that position not until late in the season even realizing he was in the game. 


You see a thought process you can understand with both Carolina and Tampa, if Atlanta has one I sure can't see it, so please, show me how dumb I am, please!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The Falcons were 1-5 in their Division last year, with a staff and roster additions that were advertised as upgrades, and outside of Carolina relatively weak competition. Frankly, at this point I'm rooting for Smith and Koetter to deliver a strong message, but I don't believe it will make any difference.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

I hope he comes back with tampa and puts a foot up shanahans arse......

ATLJOE
ATLJOE

Tampa is unbeatable now they got that brilliant defensive mind.  Recall those impenetrable Falcons and Jaguar defenses.

ZAZ
ZAZ

Hopefully. Roddy was on the downside prior to Blank's bestowing of a new contract. A mini-me Jerry Jones.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Jamies is grinning even bigger!

E983
E983

Wow, I didn't think this would happen. So Roddy White could be next. Things are gettin quite interesting.

GaLatino
GaLatino

So.... what happens if next year, Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter beat us with Tampa's players?  Will Blank finally see that Thomas Dimitroff is the problem??? 

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

The Falcons need draft picks and if the Bucs offer something then we should.move Roddy. We should have traded Tony G, when we only had 2 wins at the door adline in 2013/and you knew he was gonna retire. And Roddy is a fan favorite and nothing will take that back but he's 34 and on the downhill and will be out of the league in 2 years and isn't a fit with shanahan for one reason or another.

KennesawFan
KennesawFan

The fact that Quinn picked Shanahan as OC and then now is retaining him just casts a very large doubt on Quinn's hire as HC. Shanahan is a complete disaster. But of course why wouldn't they retain him. They continue to keep Dimitroff. QB killer and draft pick killer. 

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

Why would anyone want to become the Falcons South given the status of the Falcons North. Can they please take Dimitroff and Shanahan. yeah yeah I know...never happen given the way Dimitroff scapegoated Smith and painted a picture that if we just got rid of Smith our problems would be solved. If I were a tampa fan  I would be happier about Mike Smith as DC than Koetter as Head coach. One last point is that they  didn't have trouble  beating Falcons North twice this year with a team so bad they fired their coach.

mark513
mark513

Neither one of those situations bother me as Falcon fan, I wish the best for Coach Smith and Roddy. Both where great Falcons, White has skills and desire left but he is not breaking free like he used to. We need another guy who can tear the roof off to take pressure off Julio and continue to open up the run game. I am more concerned that we left in place the GM who has a record of  lousy picks on the o-line and d-line. Unless we start vastly improving our two lines we will be talking about going against Dan Quinn as an opposing coach some day.

Peachtree Bart
Peachtree Bart

I guess "the process" will have to take hold in Tampa before they see any real results.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Just send Smitty and put him in charge of clock management...........let Roddy, who was a State champion wrestler, kick the living shat out of CKS?...just a thought?

bufordpurvis
bufordpurvis

Smith is an effective DC and probably should play that role for a few years. Yes, he wants to be HC but it's not in the cards. Besides, DC is a good gig. The HC takes most of the heat and Smith can go back to real coaching rather than fielding questions from the press and doing administrative garbage

E983
E983

Koetter has his work cut out for him. I don't think Mike Smith or Roddy White are a fit in Tampa. Mike Smith as DC? That's like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There's enough veteran receivers in Tampa anyway. Two possible wins for those two? Bad idea.

OH:IO
OH:IO

FIRE SCHANNY

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @OH:IO Have you ever had an original thought TO, or do you just always piggy back off of Ohypocrite all the time?

HistoryofMatt
HistoryofMatt

The one-two punch of not retaining Koetter and hiring Kyle Nepotism Shanahan was not the only the worst decision Dan Quinn has ever made in football, but it will be his ultimate undoing.


With Kyle QB Killer Shanahan continuing to ruin Matt Ryan for another year, the Falcons will finish worse than 8-8 against a much tougher schedule next year, and not even firing Kyle Daddy's Boy Shanahan in the middle of the 2016 season will save Quinn and Dimitroff's job.


The Falcons in 2016 will be Dead Men Walking, for all to see.


And to think, it could've been avoided had ANYONE with half a brain even looked at the career output of and the ashes of burned bridges behind Kyle Nepotism Shanahan.

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

@HistoryofMatt  agree completely. Quinns fate is now tied to Shanahan and Dimitroff. With a tougher schedule they will all be circling the drain together next year at this time as the Falcons get ready to move into their new stadium. Lots of good PSLs available as I am constantly reminded by the sales staff with emails, phone calls, and even certified mailings. better chance selling ice in Alaska.