Atlanta Front Office Should Be On Hot Seat, Not Coach Smith
Coaching is not the main problem for the Atlanta Falcons this year. I am fully aware that the team is carrying a 3-9 record into the final weeks of the season, but I will not place the majority of the blame on head coach Mike Smith. In fact, I will not even put Smith on the hot seat. This is his first losing season as a head coach for this organization, and his teams only missed the playoffs twice. Smith has done an excellent job with helping the Falcons rise up from a team marred by the Michael Vick dogfighting controversy to a perennial playoff contender.
The only fault I do see from him this year as a matter of fact is his lack of commitment to the running game. RBs like Michael Turner are usually the key to success in an explosive offense like Atlanta’s. The more yards they gain, the better the chances of QB Matt Ryan torching defenses with deep bombs. However, I have seen much more passing than running from the Falcons this season, mainly because of injuries to Steven Jackson and the backups failing to pick up the slack. As mentioned throughout the season, you just can't make it in the pros with a rushing attack in the bottom five - Atlanta is now ranked 29th in rushing yards per game.
Instead, this season should be blamed on the front office and the injury bug, not coach Smith. Jackson, WR Roddy White and emotional defensive leader Sean Weatherspoon are trying to come back from lingering injuries. Key players are lost for the season, such as wideout Julio Jones and DE Kroy Biermann. These tough injuries led to more role players stepping up to the plate. Based on the struggles present on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, however, the injury bug greatly reduced the Falcons to just a mediocre team with potential.
The people who should be on the hot seat are majority owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Those two are to blame for the team's failures this year. For starters, I wish the front office was more active in obtaining more valuable players this offseason, especially on defense. Atlanta was only a stronger defensive unit away from going to the Super Bowl this year. Not all the signings were bad. DE Osi Umenyiora is turning out to be a decent addition to the team. He took an interception to the house, while sacking opposing quarterbacks 6.5 times, logging 40 tackles and forcing two fumbles this year. In hindsight though, Dimitroff should have gone after a veteran defensive back to replace Brent Grimes or Dunta Robinson. In fact, I do not know why the organization allowed them to walk away, fully knowing the secondary is not that good without them.
I also want Blank and Dimitroff to be more aggressive in finding talented players and not just trying to create a clean cut image for the Falcons. Yes, the front office is doing a great job creating model citizens out of their players - you rarely hear about one of their players breaking the law. I applaud them for overcoming the Vick scandal and fostering professionalism in the locker room. However, there is a drawback - great teams have both character AND talent. You can’t go anywhere in the league with a positive image alone. A team with “good ole boys” has to win too, and it starts with having depth and talent in key positions. Perhaps Dimitroff can focus more on adding depth and talent to the running back, offensive line and defensive line positions.
Enjoy being off the hook as long as you can, coach Smith. Remember, in the words of former Atlanta head coach Jerry Glanville, NFL stands for “Not For (expletive) Long”.