Week seventeen in the NFL and the end of the regular season with game sixteen against division rival Tampa Bay visiting the Dome and I found myself being Coach Mike Smith.
I was not drinking or playing a new video game I’d received for Christmas, nor was I watching the sequel to the 1999 movie Being John Malkovich, but I was meandering daydream style how Smitty was going about this final game of 2012. Coach Smith is traveling on a road not frequented by head coaches in the NFL that often. The debate on which route to take has been covered by Falcon beat writers and talk shows aplenty
enough to short circuit his GPS. Coach wants to keep the high level of play going into the playoffs in terms of – “ Keeping the Gas Pedal down”. There are also the “rest stop” thoughts to consider on the end of such a long trip. Luckily for Coach Smith this game against the Bucs is a Coaches Christmas present for all the hard work that has been put in since the Fourth of July. No coach plans to lose, and Smitty and Falcon pride, especially at the nest, will probably be enough to keep the perfect record at Home preserved.
In Being Coach Smith I realized that even a loss will not have him answering questions on decision making that can be elevated to the upcoming ‘Fiscal Cliff’ debacle, ( I figure if D.C sends us over a cliff, they’ll be a large exodus come re-election time in the Capitol area). A season ending loss probably won’t even be as tough for Smitty in the Atlanta papers as the questions about the Braves practice cap logo, (I always saw the logo used for twenty years of a Brave warrior to be a proud team symbol and fierce combatant, not at all demeaning like the D.C football team, but everyone has opinions.)
A loss will still have Atlanta winning the South division by five games, quite a large margin given the tough play these rival teams produce yearly. A loss maybe will shuffle the birds one draft slot – if that – so while nobody plays to lose, and certainly no one enjoys losing, the fact is this is the one game of the season that is near preseason in consequences. In being coach Smith I see huge rewards with little down side in this game. Keeping the gas pedal down going into the playoffs will be more of a mental problem than physical, the team has shown the last two games that they have done the time and homework through the season to reach the level of playoff caliber. This final game will still signal two weeks until a playoff match is started for the Falcons so the time off should be used to get healthy and not add to the injury report. Opponent preparation should not be a obstacle of significance to a tested and veteran coaching staff viewing games played prior to a visitor coming in the Dome. The largest test for Smitty and the coaches will be keeping focus and execution at said high level, and I can’t answer, even being Coach Smith, how the staff keeps game contact and speed of play during a two week bye at that same level.
In the Tampa game there is a chance to get Harry Douglas some big time playoff ready snaps. With around fifty targets for the year, (only about three a game) there is room to seriously work this weapon into the arsenal. With Roddy hopefully on rest duty Harry can fill his spot and give backup Drew Davis valuable time on the field as well. In being Coach Smith I saw same scenario with Jaquizz and Antone Smith in the backfield, getting game snaps and trying some plays that may well be utilized somewhere down the road.
I’d even like to see Lamar Holmes and Dom Davis in the second half get some playing time.
On defense, It would be time for Robert James, Dominique Franks and especially Lawrence Sidbury to get major playing time and to show what three to four years in the system has produced. This is better than a preseason game, they have been coached all year and have witnessed a successful system in place to date and can get in real game time reps. Hope we take same look at rookies Travian Robertson, Jonathan Massaquoi and Charles Mitchell and learn this years draft was even better than originally evaluated.
Tampa Bay comes into town frustrated on how the season is ending, they will be angry, but the focus the coaches for Atlanta have maintained one game at a time should prevail for the Dome team even with Regulars getting some needed rest. Being Coach Smith for a hour has been fun, but I’m well aware that Smitty and the entire team have been and still are on a year long ‘mission’ to take this franchise to the next level and the lofty position that Coach Smith has directed the team through this year gives much anticipated hope in accomplishing that goal. . “Know that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. “ – Brian Tracy.