Mike Smith should prepare his resume with a handful of NFL head coaching vacancies coming this offseason.
I liked Mike Smith as Atlanta Falcons head coach. He led the franchise to the first-ever, back-to-back winning seasons and then tacked on three more winning years after. Atlanta was 56-24 in that span, winning two division titles, four playoff appearances, and came within 10 yards of Super Bowl XLVII.
Does Smith deserve another shot at leading an NFL team?
The NFL has a history of head coaches improving the second time around.
The NFL has a history of head coaches improving the second time around. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll immediately come to mind. Perhaps Mike Smith learned some valuable lessons from his time in Atlanta and will be better in his next head coaching opportunity. Smith did have his first head coaching gig much longer than either Belichick or Carroll did. That has to count for something.
Mike Smith is the winningest head coach in Atlanta Falcons history and the only with a career winning percentage (66-46 / .589) over .500. These facts make it difficult to justify Smith’s firing in December of 2014. But remember, the team collapsed badly a year after almost going to the Super Bowl. Atlanta went 4-12 in 2013 and 6-10 in 2014. He did a lot to legitimize the current state of the franchise, but players simply stopped responding to his leadership toward the end.
Since he departed Atlanta, Mike Smith has served as defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s done an excellent job in turning over a Bucs defense that currently ranks 16th against the pass, 16th in points allowed, 12th in sacks, 5th in interceptions, and is tied for 1st in 3rd-down conversion percentage.
At season’s end, the NFL will likely have head coaching vacancies in: Chicago, Los Angeles, Buffalo, and Jacksonville. Cleveland and Cincinnati are also possibilities. Mike Smith’s name is already being passed around by the media as a candidate to fill one of the above. One particular report indicates Smith’s preference is the Jaguars’ job, now that Gus Bradley has been fired.
It’s my opinion that Mike Smith is just a little too nice to be a successful head coach. His players like him and respect him, but I don’t think players fear him. I don’t think players regard Smith the same way the Patriots do Belichick or the old Packers regarded Vince Lombardi. Fear of consequences breeds discipline and the Falcons lacked a lot of discipline during Smith’s tenure.
Some will argue the Lombardi-type of discipline doesn’t work in today’s NFL. I will argue that a disciplined Falcons’ team had all the yardage needed to get to Super Bowl XLVII.