Falcons coach Mike Smith, I’m sorry to say, should be fired for cause

“Don’t get a TO, baby!” (John Bazemore/AP photo)

"Don't get a TO, baby!" (John Bazemore/AP photo)

“Don’t get a TO, baby!” (John Bazemore/AP photo)

Update: Mike Smith started his Monday press conference by saying he “would have done some things differently” in those final 55 seconds and that he “didn’t do my best” to put his players in position to win.

Today’s print column — it’s available on myajc — concluded with this correspondent asserting that the Atlanta Falcons need a new coach. I’d hinted around for a few weeks, but Sunday’s loss proved, at least for me, the point of no return.

For five years, Mike Smith made this team win. (At least in the regular season.) The Falcons’ past two losses — separated by 28 days and the Atlantic Ocean — have come because of time mismanagement. We can say the Falcons have a thin roster or a bad defense or an overmatched defensive coordinator and we’d be right on all accounts, but still: They’d be 6-5 if they hadn’t stopped the clock twice for the opponent on Oct. 26 in Wembley and on Sunday in the Dome.

They’d be 6-5, as opposed to 4-7, if the head coach had handled one of the few things that is entirely the head coach’s province. They’d be 6-5 if Mike Smith hadn’t become to clock-botching as Kleenex is to tissue — the brand name.

It brings no pleasure to say that Smith needs to go. I consider him a good man, and for five years he was the best coach this franchise has ever known. (Talk about Dan Reeves, another good man who led the Falcons to their one Super Bowl, all you want, but he had two winning seasons in seven. Smith went 5-for-his-first-5.) I was willing to grant Smith the benefit of the doubt after last season’s 4-12, but that benefit has been blown to smithereens.

The Falcons lost to the Browns, who themselves tried everything imaginable to lose, because they stopped the clock twice — first on a timeout at 0:55, then with an incompletion at 0:49 — before Matt Bryant put the home side ahead with a 53-yard field goal at 0:44. The two timeouts Cleveland was allowed to save were the difference in this game, just as the 70 seconds gifted the Lions (who were out of timeouts) were the difference in London. Even a good coach can have a bad day. But if you have nothing but bad days, are you still a good coach?

This is my 31st season tracking the Falcons. I’ve seen a lot of coaches — eight in all, not counting three interims — and a lot of lousy coaching. What Smith has done twice in a month is as egregious as anything Dan Henning ever managed, and I’ve long considered Henning the standard for bad NFL coaching.

Even if Smith were coaching the daylights out of every game, the record since 2012 — the Falcons are 8-19 the past 1.7 seasons — would probably have gotten him canned. But we can’t say he has become an innocent bystander, a dogged (borrowing from Dan Jenkins) victim of inexorable fate. Having turned two winnable games into beyond-belief losses, Smith deserves to be fired for cause.

Reader Comments 4

305 comments
Ryno Lascavio
Ryno Lascavio

Its not that Smith is a bad coach, hes proven himself in the past as a good one. But whats hes become over the past 2 years is a timid coach. He doesnt take chances anymore. Hes constantly wanting to stop the action so he "can make the best move". He just doesnt trust his gut anymore. 

I heard on the radio the other day that he hasnt gone for a 1st,2nd or 3rd quarter 4th down (with less than 3 years) in almost 2 years. With him also calling a lot of quick timeouts, it shows how he doesnt have faith in his guys. I think the feeling is mutual with the players towards their coach.

Joey Smith
Joey Smith

Long time Falcon fan here on Miami Beach.  Looking at the Falcons current status and what has worked in the pass.

Falcons has been a strong running team with a good TE, fair passing game and strong OL.  I would say 3 of the 4 is missing.  The defensive line in the pass was able to be avg. at best but now it makes me sick.  I do like the backfield as I think they are playing well ( I blame the Defensive Cord. for that last Cleveland drive ).  

I agree that Mr. Blank should let Smith go through this process in the next 5 games to see what falls into place.  One of the worst things to do at this point is fire Smith and throw in a backup ( that never works unless you have another coach waiting in the hallway to turn things around).

Aside from current events, I think overall Smith is a good coach who from time to time makes a bad call.  Do you throw away and trade Ryan because he has a bad game here and there?  It is the same principle!  We know what Smith is able to do if all of his ducks are lined up, just look at his history when he came to Atlanta.

Message to Falcon Nation fan base:  You should be a little more understanding of the nature of things.  I believe in change but only if it is warranted.  Granted, I understand your disappointment but you have to look at the full picture.

Look at the best NFL franchises in history.  If you have a coach that has a history of winning, you stay with him.  Just ask the Miami Dolphins and their "Merry Go Round" of coaches in the pass 25 years!  

Looking ahead:  I always believe that the teams that make the playoffs fall under 2 areas:  1.  They win within their division 2. The team jells together at the end of the season with victories.  Time to line up your ducks!

DawgNole
DawgNole

I'm just glad the AJC finally let one of their sports columnists take a stand/make a statement.

That it happens to be the correct stand/statement is gravy.

etherdome
etherdome

Dimitroff should be fired first.  Then, let the new GM make the coaching decision.  


Hire Eric DeCosta.  

MoreyP
MoreyP

Atl's I. The worst division in the league!! 7 wins and they win the division!! Maybe they can upset some team

wcancer
wcancer

Which is the most shocking: the falcons still in first place or the saints losing three straight home games?

The falcons can win this division with a 8-8 record. Don't you love this country!!!!  v 

JSSN
JSSN

@wcancer

If think this Falcons team is gonna win more than 3 more games (and that's a stretch), man I got some prime property for you on Hollywood Road!

SOB
SOB

@wcancer Not gonna happen. Have you looked at the upcoming opponents?

KBP
KBP

Would you rather have a losing record and finish LAST in a HORRIBLE division or have a losing record and finish FIRST in a HORRIBLE division?


Mike Smith did cost us two games this year but I am more disturbed by the fact that he and/or Dimitroff changed the philosophy that brought 5 straight winning seasons and a near SuperBowl birth. We had a power running game and Matt did his thing off of the running game. Since drafting Julio, we have become a finesse, pass first  and run if necessary team.  All of the experts say Smith will be fired but if Dimitroff does not go with him, you may as well keep them both. Would love to have Jim Harbaugh.

Slimjr
Slimjr

Play maker does not describe Matt Ryan's game. : (



Chris Chandler threw the most beautiful deep ball.


It's too bad the present QB does not possess that type of arm to test the opposing secondary with intent..

etherdome
etherdome

@Slimjr Chandler had a better deep pass than Ryan;  that is true.  But, Chandler had a decent OL and Jamal Anderson.  The threat of a very good run game makes a huge difference. 


Why Matt Ryan does not have a cannon for an arm, his arm strength is plenty good.  


Tommy D invested in very costly WR's at the expense of an OL.  Dimitroff needs to be fired.  It doesn't get any more simple than that.   

Ryno Lascavio
Ryno Lascavio

@etherdome @Slimjr Ryan is just too conservative a passer to throw deep balls. Although he has a reciever that "can go up and get" just about any deep ball thrown in his vicinity, he rarely throws to him in this way.

Slimjr
Slimjr

So Mr Blank gave a 100 million to a thug you say?


He also gave a 100 million to a QB with a noodle arm who has one lousy playoff win in 7 years..


Oh btw, he's batting 8-19 since the NFC Championship meltdown.


Dude is the most overrated professional athlete in Georgia bar none.


MV7 won 2 playoff games with 1/10th the talent given this buster... : (

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Slimjr

Two for two. Guess that makes Blank a real dud.

He can pick 'em, can't he?

RFC49
RFC49

Regarding the third down play, Hester had his guy beat.   Ryan throws the ball five yards further and everybody is talking about the gutsy call to put the game out of reach.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  As for Bradley and his running buddy Schultz, who cares what these never-were's think - they know that no one will hold them accountable for their erroneous proclamations and predictions so they just hurl their 'stuff' with reckless abandon and wonder why the people actually doing a job think so little of them.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@RFC49: "[?] Ryan throws the ball five yards further . . . ."

_________________________

Go ahead, it's OK. You can say it. 

"IF"

"IF Ryan throws the ball five yards further . . . ."

IF this, IF that. 

This is what it usually comes down to with ATL pro teams.


MoreyP
MoreyP

4-7!!!! In first place!!! YES!!  ATL rules!! Rise up!!!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

So the Saints lost and the 4-7 Falcons remain in first place. I haven't looked to see if it's possible to win the Division at 5-11, but it certainly is at 6-10 with no wins outside the Division.


All of this media drumbeat for Smith's head IGNORES the facts that the offense had the ball and was incapable of grinding out first downs to run out the clock, and the defense did not stop Cleveland's final drive (kudos to Trufant for his earlier interception). This is a deeply flawed professional football team, seemingly bent on getting its quarterback killed while making mediocre opposition look like Champions. And with a win over Arizona or Pittsburgh (unlikely as that is) they might well make the playoffs in a state of historic dysfunction.

daddywilson
daddywilson

Look, we dont need name calling, we can agree to disagree like ladies and gentlemen. Smith agreed has some learning to do but this team was built by dimwitoff and blank, again fire them. Were going down another long dangerous road that still leads back to rankin smith and family who never knew garbage about the game, talent on field or off. Blank goes for the big bang and gets burned and still goes back to the same well. You have how many "reporters", and yes I use that term loosely with the AJC who write and print garbage to sell a paper or to scam you into buying online just to read the trash. You coach what your given. So we tried retread Mckay, still paying for that one, we tried Reeves, mora, petrino and nothing. You gave a thug 100 million to, well be a thug. You have a very good quarterback but ignore the running game for several years, apparantly TD as a GM has failed. No OL, no DL. And who the hell hired mike tice anyway?  We need to overhaul and return a winning staff to help smith. We need a GM that understands the game and not just bike riding. And we need an owner to stay the hell off the sidelines and once you hire a proper front office, let them do the job. Blank, how do you think your players feel when they see that pissed off glare everytime they come off the field? go to your box and make faces, players are grown men, not children. On the bright side, I appauled the Falcons for staying out of the thug business. Kudos at least for that!!!  (( sorry for misspells, who cares about auto correct!! LOLOL)))

SOB
SOB

@daddywilson Exactly what kin are you to the absolutely worst and scared coach in football???

TideDawg
TideDawg

It's time to open Christmas presents!! Falcons go 4-12, win Super Bowl, fire coach for bad record, fire owner for poor planning, fire Dimitroff and hire Mark Bradley as GM, trade Ryan for 8th round draft pick(jameis Winston), hire Bobo as OC, hire Grantham as DC, Hire Bobby Petrino to replace Smitty. Did I miss anything? Oh Yeah! Fans fire Falcons and move to Charlotte. 


Mark Bradley says he can turn this team around......well, so can a tornado!


I'm not bitter, not angry.....disappointed, yeah!, disgusted, yeah! Not that big of a deal with pro football. I prefer college football where you can change an entire team in 4 years and a coach in 4 minutes.

ATL89
ATL89

Well, you can even look at Mike Smith's coaching during the winning seasons, and you can see glaring coaching deficiencies also, because even when we were winning we had miserable redzone efficiency, lack of clock management, and botched 3rd and 1s, and botched 4th and 1s, and not playing the percentages, and just gambling to see if a play will work in certain situations. 

Ihateorange
Ihateorange

Actually I think you should be canned for a history of elementary school level reporting.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

You know what is funny about Ga people? Brother Richt mismanages the clock most of the time.

I. E. , the SEC championship game. However, you losers give him a pass.

Mike rarely makes that mistake and you want his head.

Maybe Mike needs to call himself the greatest Christian. 

Farcas
Farcas

@WhiskeyBreath Yeah, that was a good response. If you are a moron and you are a moron.

MoreyP
MoreyP

can arthur sell the team to the other home depot billionaire?  he may know football better than arthur.

Hatfieldgeoff
Hatfieldgeoff

Smith does deserve to be fired. And you can add the Minnesota game to time mismanagement as well. Where Smith, at the end of the first half, used two timeouts to stopped the clock when the Vikings had the ball even though his defense had not stopped them all day. As a result the Vikings got a field goal and only the vikings ineptitude kept them from getting a TD ( they were inside the 1 when they kicked the field goal. But lets not get so caught up in blaming Smitty for his short-comings that we forget that the general manager is still mostly to blame for this roster that is as devoid of talent as any in the league. And as for our superstar receiver, Julio needs to learn how to run patterns (and how to catch) because he can't seem to get open against any corner in the league.

Kevin1967
Kevin1967

How about we have Bradley fired. This shouldn't all be on Smith. You want to fire someone then fire TD and Blank who has no clue about football and needs to stay out of it and go to your owners box and not the sideline. You coach what your given, period. This defense garbage is on TD and Blank not smith. Hes not perfect but hes the right coach and continues to grow and learn like his players. History of Falcons again proves this is more an ownership issue who doesnt understand the game, (Rankin Smith Family) and if you want to own then hire qualified front office people who get the game, not some understudy and not some retreads. This is on deaf ears I know but hey I feel a bit better now. Hey Bradley, I hear Terrence Moore is about to be out of work, why dont you two go open a landscape business. 

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@Kevin1967 Brad, you have this coming. You let other losers get a pass around town because the AJC makes you. You can't have your ice cream and eat it too. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Kudos to Trufant every week this young man goes out a gives 100 percent. Yes, Mike Smith should be fired and I'll bet he'll never be a head coach in this league again. Yeah Saints lost last night-- but the Falcons don't have what it takes to capitalized on their good fortune. Now here comes a 9-2 Cardinals team, who sacked Russell Wilson five times. I'll be praying for Matt Ryan-- that he doesn't get hurt, because when it's third and long-- Ryan will be steam rolled. Dirk Koetter is not committed to the run game, and you have to be even if it's not successful. I don't know what happen to Ryan's long ball, but it's an inaccurate pass at best.

GeorgiaBugman
GeorgiaBugman

@DarlaLewis 

I'm not really sure that the coordinators are even committed to winning games let alone a game plan.

50Concept
50Concept

the saints lost again!  they suck as much as ATl!!!  ATL still in first place!!! mark this down---atl can still win the division and make the playoffs!

Ruffski
Ruffski

@Lodicris Does it really matter?? The Falcons suck and will get embarrassed in the playoffs. 

patriotdog
patriotdog

Smitty has certainly made bone headed decisions late in the game this season, and this not a defense of him as much as a question: in all honesty, do you think he forgot how to coach in the last 22 months? Who could take a roster like this, a big money running back who is old, slow and washed up, three truly good receivers, maybe four,

and absolutely no O line or D line? Linebackers that are average at best and a defensive backfield in disarray and win? Blank looks like an absolute fool on the sideline, he's becoming a laughingstock before our eyes high giving his entourage because he knows so little about the game he thinks a 1 point lead is safe.

Dimitroff built the team, they've gotten weaker every year since he decided to build an Arena League team. SMitty? The jury might or might not be out. Dimitroff? No question he has to go. Why wait?

MikeS777
MikeS777

I'm one of the few that says No to the idea that Smith deserves to be fired.  Even if they were 6-5 right now, you'd have to be totally out of your mind to think this team is good enough to win upcoming games against Green Bay, Arizona, Pittsburgh, or even @NO.

They were completely uncompetitive against Chicago, Minnesota, and the Giants (3 teams that also have losing records right now).

Do you really think that Detroit game would have come down to clock management if Calvin Johnson was playing?  Yeah I doubt it too.

Bottom line is they made a lot of stupid personnel moves after the NFC Championship season that have put them in basically a rebuild situation.  They bankrupted themselves on a handful of skill players, leaving them  with a patchwork O line, and completely over matched defense.

What coach do you honestly think could do better with this team?

Maybe fire him just to get a clean break, but get rid of the GM too.  IMO the GM is more the problem than Smith.

GeorgiaBugman
GeorgiaBugman

@MikeS777 

Mike,

How can you not blame the coaches when they continue to trot out underwhelming players? I haven't seen one bit of "let's mix it up and see what happens" from this staff. Start Freeman and leave him in till he has 20 carries, see what happens. Start Peters at DE and see if he can continue his pressuring of opposing QBs. 


When you have reached the halfway point of the season and continue to not find a way to use Antone Smith regularly (he had 0 touches and 1 screen pass against Carolina before getting hurt), you obviously have no clue what you're doing. Add to that the head coach has been repeatedly grilled by the media and repeatedly responds that they have to find a way to get him more involved then doesn't should speak volumes about these bozos.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@GeorgiaBugman @MikeS777 Maybe because they haven't dialed in the season which is usually what happens when you "lets mix it up and see what happens".  You do that when things are so bad you have no alternative.  They haven't quite been that bad on offense yet.

They have been that bad on defense, but who do they have on defense that you can "mix it up" with?  No one.

In fact, Antone Smith is the only non-starter you can say that about.  Why?  Because there is literally no one on the defense that scares anyone right now.  They bankrupted the team for Ryan, Jackson, Jones, and White in addition to giving away a whole draft for Jones.  So now you have a bunch of bargains everywhere else.  That's on the GM, not the coach.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

It is all Freddi Gonzales' fault.  Fire the bum!

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

As long as the other 3 teams in our division lose out the rest of the way we've got this thing clinched with 6 wins

Mora-less-Petrino
Mora-less-Petrino

What's with all the complaints? The Birds are leading the NFC Lousy! How can you can a first place coach? An extension is in order.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I cry foul on your suggestion Mr. Bradley. This reliable coach has us back in 1st place for the 2nd week in a row. You can't fire a 1st place coach can you??

MoreyP
MoreyP

Can Thomas trade 5 draft picks for another wide receiver?? Julio getting old

Slimjr
Slimjr

"A writer needs to have the guts to explore Ryan post mega contract"

Not in this town..

Your dreaming.

Lighting would strike twice in the same spot before that happens.

QuarterMoon
QuarterMoon

As bad as the Saints have been, tonight has been a clinic on how to manage the last 2 minutes of a half.

HonestInformed
HonestInformed

Once again people........Matt Ryan was ABSOLUTELY NOT the reason the Falcons lost the Cleveland game. He definitely played well enough to win; I refer to the game score with 44 seconds left.


This is the 9th time the Falcons defense let a team come back in less than 2 minutes to erase a 4th quarter comeback by Matt Ryan & the Falcons offense. Matt Ryan lead the NFL is 4th quarter comebacks (#1 total number of comeback victories for ALL NFL QB's & was 2nd in percentage of success given opportunities) during his first 5 seasons. The pitiful Atlanta defense ranked 32nd the past 2 seasons is the ONLY reason he is not #1 through all 7 seasons!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is why he is called Matty Ice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Get over the ultra-biased and ignorant hatred people. 

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Matt Ryan is 2nd tier all the way. Throw him in the pile with the Andy Dalton's and Carson Palmers. He needs a good team around him or he is helpless to make a difference.

Nowayjose9
Nowayjose9

@HonestInformed Cleveland, notably their qb allowed the falcons to be in the game. Ryan was pretty bad this game. But what else is new. He's only a good qb when he has 7 seconds to stand in the pocket and throw. And who wouldn't be.

Dasdguy
Dasdguy

@Nowayjose9 


He's NEVER had that long to go through his progressions then check down. 

Trackbacks

  1. […] Atlanta’s Mike Smith, who could still be in first place if the Saints lose tonight, doesn’t know clock management. At all. [AJC] […]

  2. […] Falcons coach Mike Smith, I?m sorry to say, should be fired for cause | Mark Bradley blog Good article on this subject. 0 […]

  3. […] Smith had to go. That was obvious. But what’s also obvious — to me, if not to Arthur M. Blank — […]

  4. […] Smith had to go. That was obvious. But what’s also obvious – to me, if not to Arthur M. Blank […]