It’s been a while since there was a coaching controversy in Flowery Branch. You have to go back to 2006, when Jim Mora, Jr.’s Falcons were floundering and his future was in serious doubt.
The Falcons had gone from the Conference Championship game in 2004 to an 8-8 season in 2005. Then in 2006 Atlanta fell to 7-9 and the fans were getting restless. It didn’t help that Mora went on the radio and talked about how much he’d love to be the head coach at the University of Washington.
So team owner Arthur Blank fired Mora to end the controversy. He then hired Bobby Petrino, who quit at the end of his first season and went to Arkansas. There was more of a feeling of relief that Petrino left compared to any controversy.
Unfortunately, we’re in a controversy now with Mike Smith. The Falcons are 2-6 this season and 6-18 since playing in the NFC Championship. They were just embarrassed in London in one of the worst losses in Smith’s tenure.
And the fans are just not happy.
Smith is the Falcons’ most-successful coach in franchise history. His 62 wins are 13 more than Dan Reeves’ total. The Falcons had never had back-to-back winning seasons until Smith arrived. They actually had five straight winning seasons to begin Smith’s tenure.
But now things are falling apart. The offensive line is in shambles. The defense has not been tended to and has holes in too many positions. And a team that had higher expectations than were probably realistic is now facing its second-straight 4-12 season.
Rumors have been flying all week that Blank has already asked Smith to resign, to which Smith refused. If the Falcons don’t rebound dramatically, it looks like Smith’s departure – and that of general manager Thomas Dimitroff – is inevitable.
But until it happens, we’re in for two months of rumors and endless discussion. It’s not always a fun time when a team has put its coach in this position, particularly a coach that has had this much success. While Smith has not won a Super Bowl, he has been very good for a franchise that has not had a great history of success.
Fans will talk about whether they would fire Smith if they made the decision. Columnists and talk show hosts will debate who should be targeted if a change is made. It’s just a very uncomfortable time for a team and it won’t get any better until the team either rebounds or a change is made.
So prepare for it. When the Falcons resume play next week against Tampa Bay, the spotlight will be even brighter on Smith. Every time Atlanta loses, the talk with get louder. And people will compile a list of who they would like to see roam the Falcons sideline, even before the current guy in charge is out the door.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uncertainty will lead to uncomfortable time
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