Posted: 8:01 pm Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Falcons may see tougher Mike Smith in ’14 

By Jeff Schultz

Falcons coach Mike Smith was candid about the team's weaknesses. (Kent Johnson, AJC)

Mike Smith was candid about the Falcons’ weaknesses. (Kent Johnson, AJC)

I’ve posted a column on MyAJC.com on my Tuesday conversation with Falcons coach Mike Smith. Having spoken to the man a few hundred times since his hiring in 2008, I can attest he was as candid as he has ever been. (Going 4-12 last season after a string of winning seasons might left him believing there was little reason to hold back.)

Smith didn’t talk about specific players. But he admitted he saw warning signs about the team’s offensive and defensive lines as far back as training camp in July and August, particularly when the Falcons held practices against the Cincinnati Bengals in Flowery Branch.

He also admitted that he didn’t take some of the team’s obvious shortcomings as seriously as he should have, probably stemming from the fact the Falcons went 13-3 the year before and reached the NFC title game.

“When you’re winning, like we were in 2013, things get overlooked,” he said.

Smith is entering his seventh season with the Falcons, making him the NFL’s seventh-longest tenured coach. He acknowledged that sometimes the same message from the same coach can get stale over a long period, and he might have to do something more to get his players’ attention. He also will strive to end the “myth” that he’s not tough enough on his players.

“Do I have to kick ass more? I think I have to dispel some myths: Mike Smith is not a nice guy,” he said.

There’s a lot more in the column. You can click here to give it a read. Thanks.

33 comments
CarverC
CarverC

Coach Smith is a great coach.  I know it is not flashy, and we don't have any drama that gets the headlines, but he has done a great job since he has been here.  Last year our offense was beyond injured.  We lost our starting RT, then our starting LT, we new we had a hole at RG, and our center was very weak.  Then, our RB goes down and our #1 WR gets hurt.  Our #2 played injured most of the year until sitting out two games.  Our defense lost our best 3-4 OLB, then our best overall LB, our #1 CB was injured from the start.  Our RT and LT are healthy, we have a  new RG, our weak C is now a back up and I bet he is much stronger.  Our defense now has depth due to being forced to play, and we can now stop the run with Soliai and Jackson.  We also are better on special teams and the draft starts tomorrow.  We will be much improved and Smith will get votes for Coach of the Year. 

ChuckClausen
ChuckClausen

Coached and lost in Super Bowl 15 (1980 season) I remember thinking about and talking about what we would do differently the next time, little did we know there was never going to be a next time.

BigAlHeBDMan
BigAlHeBDMan

I'm thinking that the Falcons will trade up and draft Clowney because Smith's (as well as TD) job is on the line this year. They must put up or shut up. If they draft for the future, they might not be around long enough to see it, so they must win now.

Sis-Boom-Bah
Sis-Boom-Bah

Serious coaching and player acquisition/development problems were evident long before the 2013 season. So were the deficiencies of Coach Smith himself. Toughness toward players is only a secondary issue among those that he is burdened with. He is simply not NFL head coach material (a rare commodity), but perhaps he is the best the Falcons can manage to hire with Arthur Blank’s ostensibly high involvement in routine team matters.

Anyone who places ANY stock in 2014 impact of this vacuous interview simply has not been paying attention to the missteps of the Falcons over the past few years. Furthermore, the criterion for assessing the current regime at Flowery Branch must not be overall pre-Smith Falcon performance, but major championships won during a coach's tenure. Otherwise the team is merely schedule fodder for competitive teams.

Having a credible 2014 draft outcome is now vital to arrest the steady decline in the caliber of the team roster during the Smith years. Under present management/coaching trends, the Falcons are now just a few players short of OBLIVION (actually just one in the case of Matt Ryan).

Jack7
Jack7

He's also not the smartest of coaches. Overlooked? how about bad decisions? How about weak schedules before being exposed? How about lucky to have won before being brought back to reality? Its a shame that CMS and GMTD are just now realizing the type of players we need after being in the league as long as they have, doing what they do. Are you kidding me? And then to go get what some have called washed up players? Really? And the way they have drafted and pursued free agency leaves a lot to be desired. History shows to get the best player available and not to draft for position. Also don't draft for star/name status. Tough hard nosed players aren't always the ones that get the head lines in college, especially DL's that eat double teams so the LB's & DE's can make tackles for loses and DB's that make tackles to support the run D but don't get a lot of interceptions. But they are solid and make plays to get the other team's O off the field. Our linebackers make too many tackles 4, 6 and 8 yards down field. Our D is on the field too long trying to stop players bigger, stronger, tougher with smarter coaches. You build around your best veterans.We messed up when in no time we let go of our best LB (Curtis Lofton), best DB ( Brent Grimes) and best DL (John Abraham). We should have built around them. And yes you have to pay for a championship. Quit trying to be cheap and pay for proven talent, toughness and know how. They paid for offensive name players but let the best OL players go. What good is it to have all that talent at skill spots on O if you are under pressure to score at least 35 points a game to win? Spend money on both sides of the ball and we'll have a chance to compete. Opposing OL's love to see the Falcons, or should I say Pigeons? So do their QB's. Five years in and they have built in the wrong direction and now have to start over because they let their good players go too soon being cheap. From 2nd round All American LB to undrafted free agent linebackers. From Pro Bowl DB to drafting too high for rookies to take his place. Instead of adding help for Abe you try to replace his consistency and leadership and bought in a poor replacement. And the mistakes on the OL have been well documented. Now they are starting over again, with most of the same people from last year. Please. 

96JB
96JB

He's the NFL's Mark Richt

ZACKBO50
ZACKBO50

HOW ABOUT PUTTING AN END TO THAT D-BLOCK CRAP IF THE TEAM DOES NOT WIN THAT WEEK? WHAT IS ALL THE CLOWNING FOR AFTER A LOSS? AND THE COACHES WERE IN ON SOME OF THE EPISODES TOO! AND MAYBE THAT VACTION STYLE "CAMP" THEY HAVE NEEDS TO GO TOO. THE PLUSH CONDOS THE FANFARE....CUT THE CRAP BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE NOT WON A DAMN THING!

Dan_H
Dan_H

I've always thought Mike Smith was an excellent off-the-field coach who didn't have the temperament or decision-making skills to handle in-game coaching duties (challenge plays, half-time adjustments, go-for-it calls, etc.).

My concern with the article here is that once you "lose" the team, it is very difficult to get it back. If you have to tell people you are "not a nice guy," it tends to be more wishful than convincing. You don't see Belicheck needing to tell anyone that. Everyone knows, including his superstar players.

The problem is, the owner almost always has to let the problem play out to a conclusion: another unsatisfactory season, followed by a coaching change. 

SOB
SOB

I always like to chirp in when the subject is Mike "Bullet Head" Smith. For the umphteenth time, this guy is a rookie NFL head coach dragged out of the swamp that is the Jacksonville Jaquars. He works for a rookie General Manager and a rookie NFL owner. He's in so far over his head he can't even see the top of the well much less climb out of it. He lies to every body, about every thing, placing the blame on anyone that is not himself. He is not an NFL football coach. He should be the mayor of say Folkston, Georgia and steal their money. The Falcons will never win anything important with this guy at the helm of this sinking ship. Ole'.

AOdumatic
AOdumatic

Always hard to win when you play in an old dump like the Georgia Dome. The new stadium will fix all our problems!

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

It's not just Smitty.  From Blank on down, Falcon executives and coaches need to start treating the players as contracted employees instead of like family and friends.  These guys need to fight for their jobs every day and know they could be gone like that if they give less than 100%.  NFL players are not business executives and have very different motivations..

JSSN
JSSN

Well, well, well...Mike Smith finally had his Marty Schottenheimer open forum media confession meltdown! 

People were too busy fawning over the Matt Ryan contract extension not to see what everyone else had seen the times they had practiced against anyone other than the Titans or Jaguars! That team was as weak wet tissue paper!

doggoneit
doggoneit

Smitty needs to take a Bill Belichick 101 class. Smitty is not paid to be nice. He is paid to win. The players are paid millions each a year to crack heads and instill there will upon the other team. 

-sting-
-sting-

the preseason practice reports about how the bengals mauled the falcons at the line of scrimmage and then visually see it during preseason games were a dead give away as to how quickly this team would sink. i was alarmed and i dont get paid a dime. cant understand if it was a case of the emperor's new clothes. it will be another long season if they dont get significant upgrades there.

btw if they trade up to get clowney or anyone this team is struggling even more. this isnt a star league, it is anout players getting coached.

SaintsREAM
SaintsREAM

Schultz, write an article about TD next. Falcon fans aren't happy with him either.

SaintsREAM
SaintsREAM

Mike Smith is a nice guy and a decent head coach but he won't win a Super Bowl. I've said it here before ...he's too reactionary and impulsive and not the chess player other coaches are. Look :

1. Last year it was camp Ipad and no hitting, fearing injury.

2. Odd 4rth down calls to go for it.

3. The team sputters after the 1st half - no adjustments or feel for the game.

4. Exactly what is his specialty? What identity does a Smith coach team have? They were a run 1st team and the abandoned that to be an aerial assault team....and now???

Not a great coach......I hope he gets an extension!! Lol.

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

This probably isn't the best thread to mention this but.....GM TD has drafted this bunch of choir boys.  The best thing the Falcons can do to make sure this upcoming draft is successful is to lock Dimitroff out of the draft room for three days.

gfw
gfw

As I write this, there are seven comments.  They are all hitting nails on the head.  I have nothing to add except to say that it is probably TD, not Smith, who is really calling the shots on who the team signs.  Woe to us all.

drew56
drew56

He needs to get smarter, not tougher.

Intruder
Intruder

Smith went 13-3 because the Falcons played only one team that made the playoff. They went 4-12 because they played eight teams that made the playoffs. Smith went 0-8 against them. He didn't mention that?

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

It's like dating a woman whatever you start off with you have to be consistent. Now Mike Smith might be tougher on his players, you can't change who you are  over night. If he notice something last year-- he should have did something about it. Sounds like a coach who knows if he doesn't win this year he's out the door.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

Why would he say, "Mike Smith is not a nice guy"??   Strange thing to say.   The lady doth protest too much.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Smith is culpable, but don't give TD a pass, he of woeful drafts. Hard to coach an Oline that is getting pushed all around the field and a Dline with no pass rushers.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Can anyone imagine Lombardi saying I saw some warning signs in training camp but I let it slide because we did well last year. LOL I think Smitty just admitted he didn't do his job.

slydawg
slydawg

Hhhmmm....The Falcons may see a tougher Smith in '14 eh? Not exactly an original thought or unreasonable expectation. He'll also be more uptight.

JSSN
JSSN

@CarverC  

"I know it is not flashy, and we don't have any drama that gets the headlines"

Huh? Moore, White, Abraham (before he was shown the door), and Turner (before he was sent packing) made "headlines" for there off the field messes! As long as Twitter exists, Roddy is 140 characters from another embarrassing episode! 

As much as I like what Soliai and Jackson's run game abilities bring, be under no illusions, that the Falcons linebacking is not Houston, Hali, The 3 Johnsons, and Jordan in the core of their linebacking corp! 

I'm so happy the draft is finally here, time to end the silly season of blogging and see where the holes are once and for all!

RogerHenslee
RogerHenslee

@JSSN  Time for Dimitroff to have a similar discussion about his handiwork!

SaintsREAM
SaintsREAM

Yeah Smitty let them slide to 4-12!!! But you are right no astute coach lets the patients run the asylum.....no leadership.

Sayinthisagain
Sayinthisagain

@slydawg more uptight....he'll probably need a bigger 'book'...you know, the one he writes down all the 'bad' things in...he is laughable....

JSSN
JSSN

@RogerHenslee

I get a lot of heat for saying that Dimitroff and by proxy Mike Smith have created a closed shop in Flowery Branch. I get more information from the Boston media on what Thomas is thinking and doing than from the local media or the Deathstar's correspondent (ESPN). I repeat, it is not the media's fault. Scott Pioli who seems to have learned his lesson from his huge mistakes in how he handled the organization friendly media in Kansas City, appears to have them talking more. But it is still a very closed shop. It does not benefit them, the players, or the fans in general.

Blank has stepped back during this regime (except for that coming from the box thing); and he generally sounds so much more open when Thomas is not on a podium with him. See his chamber speeches, the Petrino era has muted him.

Roger, I don't know if you'll benefit now in calling out Dimitroff, that ship has gone under the waves. However, you should expect anyone covering the Falcons from this day forward is for the end of the silly hiding players in the injury reports. The side talk, the we know more than anyone else tone (didn't work for Ken Herok and it is not working now), and goodness sake This Player is Elite Talent rubbish!

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

@SaintsREAM Keep in mind that Smitty is just one rung on the Falcons corporate ladder which is led by a very hands-on owner who likely influences most team decisions. 

doggoneit
doggoneit

@SaintsREAM  Yeah kind of like the saints coach absent for a year because he thought it was ok to take people permanently out of the game. No leadership there.