NFC South Notes: Mike Smith, Saints, Panthers

The Falcons have hired the Los Angeles-based search firm Korn Ferry to assist them in finding head coaching candidates, in the event that current HC Mike Smith is fired, according to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN (Twitter link). The Jets used the same firm two years ago when they were looking for a new general manager. Ian Rapoport of says (via Twitter) that Atlanta needs to win today and in the playoffs for Smith to keep his job, as owner Arthur Blank has been disappointed with the club’s lack of success. Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • If the University of Michigan’s pursuit of Jim Harbaugh is any indication, the school aims high when searching for head coaching hires. In fact, UM pursued Saints head coach Sean Payton for its vacancy in 2011, but nothing ever materialized, tweets Rapoport.
  • Ryan Pace, the Saints’ director of player personnel, will be on many teams’ GM short lists, according to Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune (Twitter link), who says losing Pace would be a blow to New Orleans’ front office. In fact, Pace was offered an interview for the Dolphins’ GM position last year, but the Saints declined permission, per Mike Triplett of (Twitter links). At the time, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the club denied Pace the opportunity because the club was still in the playoffs, but said he expected Pace to be hired away at some point. Rapoport identified Pace as a candidate for the Jets’ GM post earlier today.
  • Even if the Panthers lose to the Falcons today and miss the playoffs, the team is in a better place now than they were when the 2013 season ended, writes Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer. After last year, Carolina had to deal with the loss of key players such as Jordan Gross, Captain Munnerlyn, and Mike Mitchell, as well as maneuver around salary cap trouble. Now, per Sorensen, the club has acquired a stable of young players, and GM Dave Gettleman can use the free agent period to supplement his roster.
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