The Atlanta Falcons made the right choice about their head coach Monday (they made the wrong one about their general manager, but we’ll see how long that one holds).
They need to make the right choice again coming up with their new head coach, and it’s the most important decision Arthur Blank has made as the owner.
Blank made a terrific hire when he picked Mike Smith to be the head coach after the Bobby Petrino debacle. Smith gave the Falcons stability, class and legitimacy, and those three words never have been associated with the franchise.
But after last year’s struggles (a 4-12 record after a loss in the NFC title game the year before), Smith was on the hot seat this season. And several mistakes sealed his fate. The time management losses to Detroit and Cleveland fall directly on Smith, and then Sunday’s atrocious performance against Carolina was inexcusable.
It’s hard to believe that a team that has had such a roller coaster season had something to play for in the final week of the regular season. But it did, only to put forth such a pitiful performance that the game was over by halftime -- to another team that has had a laughable roller coaster ride.
So Smith was fired, and he probably should have been. How GM Thomas Dimitroff kept his job is a mystery, but we’ll see if that remains true after the new head coach is hired.
Who that head coach will be is going to be a pivotal decision for Blank. Smith led the Falcons out of the depths of, well, being the Falcons. After never having consecutive winning seasons, he led them to five straight winning seasons and four playoff appearances in his seven seasons. That’s almost statue-worthy stuff for this franchise, but the Falcons never could quite get over the hump, going 1-4 in the playoffs.
So Blank is looking for the coach to take his team to the next level, and there are plenty of names floating around: former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. There likely are others, but those are the hot names being mentioned.
Ryan is the sexy choice, but there was a reason he was fired by New York. While the general manager situation with the Jets was laughable during his tenure, Ryan’s team never really developed an offensive identity or game plan. While the Falcons appear to be set on offense and most of their problems are on defense, the offensive problems (woeful offensive line and running game) can’t be ignored.
Then you go to the non-sexy names, and the one that pops up immediately is Bowles. Yes, he’s a defensive coach like Ryan, and the offensive problems still would have to be fixed. Yes, he’s a longtime defensive assistant like Smith, so do Falcons fans really want to go down that road again?
But Bowles has a reputation of being determined and focused, and he gets the most out of his players. He has done a terrific job in each of the stops in his career and could carry that over to the Falcons’ head coaching job.
He hasn’t been a head coach in the NFL, so he would have to get a good staff around him, especially on the offensive side, and he would have to work well with Dimitroff (or maybe not). But each coach is only as good as his staff and the people around him.
Bowles would figure out those things and be the right choice for the Falcons.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org