Falcons owner Arthur Blank is prepared to fire head coach Mike Smith after this season, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Blank has reportedly confided his plans to “multiple parties,” and only an unforeseen playoff run will change his mind.
The Falcons have benefited from playing in a historically-weak NFC South in 2014, as they are still in the hunt for a playoff berth despite their 5-9 record. However, even if they were to win the division, such a performance would not be enough for Blank, who believes major changes are necessary after watching his club underachieve for two consecutive years following its NFC Championship Game appearance in 2012.
Smith came to the Falcons in 2008 along with quarterback Matt Ryan, who was the No. 3 overall pick in that year’s draft. Atlanta compiled an 11-5 record in 2008 en route to a surprise playoff appearance and Smith earned AP Coach of the Year and NFL Coach of the Year honors that season. The Smith-Ryan marriage remained a largely successful one after 2008, though the team has managed just one playoff win in four trips to the postseason.
But the Falcons have gone just 9-21 since the start of the 2013 campaign, and though the blame for that performance should fall primarily upon a roster that has stagnated, the fact remains that Smith has failed to get the most out of his club for two consecutive seasons, a club that appeared to have legitimate championship aspirations in each of those years.
As for the man who has been tasked with building the roster, GM Thomas Dimitroff, Blank has indicated that he expects Dimitroff to return, though that could change during the process of finding a new head coach. La Canfora writes that the team is doing its “due diligence” on such head coaching candidates as Adam Gase, Josh McDaniels, and current Stanford coach David Shaw.