At this point in the 2012 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons and their head coach Mike Smith had just endured their first loss of the 2012 season, falling to the New Orleans Saints 31-27 in New Orleans. Coach Smith would lead that team to the NFC Championship, the deepest the Falcons had been in the playoffs since 2004.
This season, Coach Smith and the Falcons have just clawed their way to 3-6, with hopes for the playoffs getting smaller and smaller every week. The core of the team is essentially the same as it was in 2012. Quarterback Matt Ryan and Wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White are all still in Atlanta and are still the focal point of the Falcons offense; however, the players around them have significantly changed.
Due to free agency and injuries, only two offensive linemen from the 2012 Falcons team are currently on the active roster. Running back Michael Turner is gone and has been replaced by the disappointing Steven Jackson. The most important loss was the loss of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who retired last season.
The Falcons have still been able to put up points this season for the most part, but with the 30th rated defense in a 32-team league, the Falcons offensive output is simply not enough.
This is where the blame begins to fall on Mike Smith. Smith was regarded as a defensive coach when he came to Atlanta, but the defenses he has put on the field have been generally subpar, and this year’s version might be the nail in the coffin.
Three weeks ago in London, the Falcons gave up a 21-0 lead in the second half to fall to the Detroit Lions, and team owner Arthur Blank was not happy, believing that his Falcons should never give up a 21-point lead.
“I agree with him when you’re up 21 to nothing at halftime you should not lose that football game,” said Coach Smith in a press conference after the game.
Fans and members of the media had been questioning Smith’s job for weeks, but a public stamp of disapproval from the owner adds a whole new kind of pressure to Smith’s job.
Recently, there have even been names floating around as potential replacements for Smith, such as New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. As for Smith, he probably knows his seat is getting hotter week after week, but by all indications he plans on sticking to his same routine and hoping for better results.
“We are going to do what we have done the past six-plus years and prepare each and every week like we know how to do it and I will continue to do that until Mr. Blank tells me otherwise.”