Like any coach who enters a season with Super Bowl expectations with an embarrassing 1-4 record heading into Week 6, questions will arise whether or not that coach has the ability to elevate his team not only in the regular season, but in the postseason as well. The Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith should be on the “hot” seat, especially after making two questionable calls that ended up being critical mistakes in two separate games.
Before I start to critique Smith, nothing can take away the impact he has had since arriving to the Dirty Birds’ nation back in 2008. He is without a doubt one of the best coaches the Falcons have ever had, accumulating an impressive 57-27 record with a .679 winning percentage.
Not only did he help the Falcons have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time, but he almost took them to the Super Bowl last year. Smith brought back life into the Georgia Dome that was once quiet and almost a ghost town when Michael Vick was arrested. The city of Atlanta was rejuvenated and their Dirty Birds once again became relevant in the world of football.
Although Smith has brought back excitement and renewed energy to a Falcons organization that is short in terms of success, he has failed to take his team to the next level and continues to show his inability to win the big games.
Smith’s Falcons have excelled in the regular season, as they have posted two 13-3 records in the past three years. Even then, however, Smith and the Falcons were ousted in the first round of the playoffs in the past three out of four years, until they finally won their first playoff game last year.
During Smith’s first five years with the team, he has recorded one playoff victory and has a record of 1-4 in the postseason all told.
Every coach has their struggles, as Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts experienced difficulty winning in the postseason. The difference is that Dungy and his quarterback Peyton Manning continued to grow and learn from their mistakes, while it seems that Smith has just been unable to learn and adjust his schemes to give the Falcons a better chance to win.
Although Smith’s career as a head coach is relatively short, in each playoff loss, fans have witnessed on numerous occasions where Smith is just out-coached.
Against the San Francisco 49ers, Smith and the Falcons were the aggressive team in the first half. During the second half, however, instead of Smith making the right adjustments and planning his counter-attack before the 49ers made their first strike, it was the 49ers coaching staff that made all the right adjustments in giving their team the best chance to win.
In this season alone, Smith got desperate and seemed to panic when he decided to go for it on fourth downs twice.
Later in those two games, his decision to not kick the field goal proved to be fatal, as the Falcons were able to move the ball down the field where they could have had chances to kick the game-winning or tying field goal attempts. In the end, though, the Falcons had to go for the touchdown, as his decision left the Falcons with two losses.
I understand that sometimes all the blame is easily put on the coaches, and they become the designated scapegoat whenever something bad happens. It is unfair in my opinion, as it is ultimately up to the players to perform and execute their game plan.
On the other hand, coaches are supposed to come up with a game plan that is best suited for their teams and give them chances to not only succeed, but to get better. The only thing the Falcons have been getting better at is their inconsistency in the red zone and their tendency to lose in a dramatic fashion.
Even with a disappointing beginning, there is still time to prove that he is their guy that can help them take the next step and ultimately their second trip to the Super Bowl. How Smith and his Falcons play in Week 7 will tell us everything we need to know, and until Smith can show his coaching prowess he should be placed on the hot seat.