Everyone (well, most everyone) in Atlanta knows what a great head coach Mike Smith has been since he took over a franchise in tatters back in 2008, and it would seem that after coaching the Atlanta Falcons to a 13-win season and an appearance in the NFC Championship game in 2012-13, some other people around the country have once again stood up and taken notice as well.
The Sporting News has named Smith as their 2012 NFL Coach of the Year, giving him the honor for the third time in his five seasons as the Falcons head coach. Smith is in good company, joining Paul Brown, Chuck Knox and Joe Gibbs as the only 3-time winners of the award. Only Don Shula received the honor more, winning it four times in his career.
Since stepping in as head coach in 2008, Smith has compiled a 56–24 (.700) regular season record, and has led the Falcons to the postseason four out of his five seasons as coach. Atlanta has never had a losing season under Smith.
Yet even with all the success, Smith’s 1-4 playoff record while coaching the Falcons continues to follow him and cause unrest amongst many fans. His detractors are quick to point out failings in the playoffs before the overall success and stability that Smith has brought to what had been one of the most poorly run franchises in the NFL.
Smith has reached the 50-win milestone in only 71 games with Atlanta. He is the third fastest head coach to reach that many wins since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Only George Seifert (62 games) and Chuck Knox (65 games) were able to reach 50 wins faster than Smith. Considering what Smith walked into with Atlanta, he has worked virtual miracles.