Perfectly acceptable as an ice cream flavor, horrific when applied to a football team. Most of the fans I know seem to feel the Falcons have become a vanilla team—predictable, boring, lacking imagination. I asked a friend of mine if he was excited about the Falcons the other day and he replied, “Well, I mean, it is the Falcons.”
While rabid fans of Atlanta’s team are probably jumping up and down on the couch after reading those words, there’s something to be said about perception. It may not be reality, but it certainly helps shape it, and the perception of the fan base this year might have a lot to do with shaping the future of head coach Mike Smith.
True, no one’s called for Coach Smith’s job, but if the Falcons don’t perform to expectations this year—and good luck determining who’s expectations will be the standard for measurement—there’s a chance Smitty might become a target for change.
After all, the Falcons are married to Matt Ryan thanks to his $100 million contract. Coordinators Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter are headed into their third seasons, and while you could make an argument that both of their units have under performed, they’re still pretty recent on the job. Some folks interpreted the hiring of Scott Pioli as assistant GM to be a shot across the bow of Thomas Dimitroff, but the GM has had more hits than misses in terms of talent acquisition (roster building might be another matter).
That leaves Coach Smith.
Personally, I think Smitty has earned the right to stick around. As the numbers bear out, he’s been the best coach the Falcons have had in my 38 years of watching them, and his commitment to integrity, character and fundamentals is spot on. In a Twitter-fied world of lightning fast change, there’s something to be said for letting a coach build something through the ups and downs.
Perception, however, might dictate something else, however. 60 wins in the regular season is great, and so is having a team full of stand up guys, but a 1-4 won/loss record in the playoffs and some highly questionable crunch time calls tend to overshadow the nice things—something Curt Chaffin covered well in his post this past March. Should the Falcons fail in 2014, right or wrong, the fall guy will be the man with the white hair.
For Coach Smith’s sake, here’s hoping the Hard Knocks curse is a myth.