Arthur Blank should be ashamed

Falcons coach Mike Smith deserved more respect from team owner Arthur Blank.

Sunday morning word leaked out the Falcons had already hired a search firm to identify head coaching candidates if Mike Smith is fired.

We know now, after Atlanta’s embarrassing 34-3 loss to the Panthers, that will most likely happen Monday. Smith is expected to lose his job after seven years as Atlanta’s head coach.

That debate, of whether or not Smith should be fired or not, is not for this space. What is, however, is the decision by team owner Arthur Blank to move in that direction before Smith was let go.

Blank should be ashamed of himself. Smith deserved better.

Maybe the report had absolutely nothing to do with the atrocious performance by the Falcons on Sunday. But that’s not the point. The fact it came out about four hours before the most important game in two years for this franchise should be considered unacceptable.

Blank had no reason to hire a search firm prematurely. What if the Falcons had won Sunday against the Panthers and won a couple of playoff games? He would have looked like a fool then.

And the biggest question is why in the world would a NFL team owner for that long even need a search firm to help? That may be customary, but I doubt Jerry Jones needs someone to tell him who to hire as head coach of the Cowboys.

Isn’t that what the general manager is for? Sure, Blank’s general manager is (and should be) under the gun as much as Smith. But there was no reason for Blank to hire any firm to do something that should be done by people he has in place already. If people like Thomas Dimitroff or Scott Pioli or Rich McKay can’t help with a search, why are they even there?

But for the word to leak out was classless and downright trashy. We consider Blank to be better than the Rankin Smith family, who led the Falcons for decades to horrible records. This isn’t even something the Smith family would do.

Mike Smith is the best coach the Falcons have ever had. He had five winning seasons in seven years, with four playoff appearances. Sure, there have been great disappointments in the last two years, with the Falcons going 10-22 since making the NFC Championship. And yes, Smith probably does deserve to be fired because you just can’t hit a wall like the Falcons have done without someone taking the fall.

For Smith to take the field knowing there was a report out there that Blank had already hired a firm to help find his replacement was pathetic. The man was already under tremendous pressure. No one had to tell Mike Smith his job was on the line Sunday. No one had to tell Mike Smith if the Falcons lost he was probably going to be fired.

You have to know someone probably told Smith about the report. People talk. Social media spreads gossip very quickly. Smith knew what was going on, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised this team wet the bed Sunday against Carolina. That’s a lot of pressure on any human being.

The players shrugged their shoulders when asked about it after the game. But they had heard it. They knew what was going on. That wasn’t fair to them, either.

Blank should be blamed for this. It was a terrible thing to do. We expected better and should all be disappointed in the manner in which this was handled.

Mike Smith will probably be shaking hands with Blank for the last time early this week, but maybe after what he saw happen with this report Sunday he’ll be relieved he’s getting out of town just in time.

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 email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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