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Per Jeff Schultz Of The Ajc, Some Players Appear To Have Quit On Mike Smith


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Not necessarily in agreement…just the messenger

Has Mike Smith lost Falcons’ attention?

Posted: 4:14 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013

Falcons coach Mike Smith believes his players have “resilience,” and we know this because he says it after every game and in several waking moments in between. This is how Webster’s defines resilience: “The ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens; the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.”

The Falcons are 2-8. They have lost four consecutive games by scores of 27-13, 34-10, 33-10 and 41-28. This would be a good time for Smith to find a new buzzword because it’s clear the Falcons’ ability to become strong after a setback, or to return to their original shape after being pulled, stretched, pressed or bent is pure fantasy.

The sad reality that Smith won’t acknowledge publicly is that the players he has been so quick to defend have quit on him. They might show a pulse at kickoff. They might get into the occasional pushing match or throw a block or run out a route. But there’s a clear difference between watching players on auto pilot and seeing them go at their job with passion and effort — especially after being punched in the face.

The 2-8 teams get punched and collapse. They’re not resilient. The 2-8 teams have players with their minds on direct deposit. They say the right things and maybe for five minutes a game even do the right things. But pride doesn’t make it through four quarters. Teams don’t become 2-8 only because of injuries. They become 2-8 when the healthy players don’t care enough.

Which brings me back to Mike Smith.

He is a terrific person. He is a terrific coach. A guy doesn’t step into a historically losing organization such as the Falcons, win for five consecutive seasons and make the playoffs in four of them and not know how to coach. But this is not about what happened yesterday, it’s about today. Today, players are not following their head coach.

This is not a “Fire Mike Smith” column. But Falcons owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff — who obviously is not immune to criticism also — have to wonder if this season is a warning sign. Because if this is not some aberration and Smith really has lost his ability to command players’ attention, then it won’t matter what personnel changes are made after this season.

Coaching has become a disposable profession for this reason. Players suddenly tune out their leader, fair or unfair. Smith didn’t suddenly become dumb. But if he is saying and doing the same things during a 2-8 season that was while going 56-24 in the first five, that’s a significant problem.

The Falcons have lacked focus, an edge and confidence. There were warning signs last season when they unraveled down the stretch of both home playoff games against Seattle and San Francisco. This season, they haven’t looked like a well-coached, cohesive group since they broke training camp.

They have looked sloppy and unprepared. Every week is another mutating blob of turnovers, penalties, missed assignments and mis-tackles. That’s either poor coaching, poor listening or both.

The Falcons were outworked and outplayed Sunday by a Tampa Bay team that was 1-8 and recently bordered on a mutiny against coach Greg Schiano. They have one more win than Jacksonville and half as many as Buffalo.

There’s your preseason Super Bowl contender: Half of Buffalo.

This season has been over from a playoff-chase perspective for a while. But it would be telling how this team would finish the season because it would indicate something about character and coaching, moving forward. The past four weeks: not comforting foreshadowing for 2014.

Even great coaches often have limited lifelines. John Fox is 9-1 in Denver. But he was fired in Carolina after three 11-win seasons, two division titles, two conference championships berths and a Super Bowl appearance. Andy Reid is 9-1 in Kansas City. But he was fired by Philadelphia, where he was honored three times as coach of the year, won six division titles and coached in five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl.

Tom Coughlin? Canned by Jacksonville, where he coached his team to four playoffs in his five years, like Smith. Mike Shanahan? Let go in Denver, where he won two Super Bowls.

Blank has publicly supported Smith. But let’s be real here. He doesn’t handle failure very well. Self-made billionaires seldom do.

Dan Reeves led the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance and coached the Falcons to a major playoff upset in Green Bay in 2002. But the following season the team collapsed and Reeves was fired. The impetus for the fall? Michael Vick broke his leg. Blank also fired Jim Mora in 2006. Mora went 11-5 and reached the NFC Championship game in his first season, but followed that with records of 8-8 and 7-9. End of honeymoon.

There have been injuries. There have been personnel mistakes, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. There has been a step back by quarterback Matt Ryan. But the biggest concern about the Falcons’ this season is the manner in which they’ve completely collapsed from within. Resilience is a mindset. Right now, it’s also a fantasy.

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Have they quit on Mike Smith or just on 2013?

I think that's as astute observation and a great question.

I just can't grasp the idea that these players could quit on a man that has brought them so much success. I can see players quitting on a Petrino or Mora, but not Smith--not this early all things considered.

However, when in the past the local newspaper start writing like this it often leads to trouble.

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Whatever lol

Team was 10 yards from a SB berth and has had an injury ravaged season to the tune that made Jay Glazer say that he has never seen a team with as many significant injuries as the Falcons.

Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville at what happened? He went on to win 2 superbowls in NY. And while in NY there was always talks about him being on the hot seat. Obviously when a coach benches starters and former pro bowlers at that, it will bring on the "has he lost the locker room" talk but he is going nowhere. People who don't like him need to just accept it. He will be here next year.

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I think that's as astute observation and a great question.

I just can't grasp the idea that these players could quit on a man that has brought them so much success. I can see players quitting on a Petrino or Mora, but not Smith--not this early all things considered.

However, when in the past the local newspaper start writing like this it often leads to trouble.

69990-Star-Trek-nod-approve-gif-Capt-msON.gif

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Whatever lol

Team was 10 yards from a SB berth and has had an injury ravaged season to the tune that made Jay Glazer say that he has never seen a team with as many significant injuries as the Falcons.

Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville at what happened? He went on to win 2 superbowls in NY. And while in NY there was always talks about him being on the hot seat. Obviously when a coach benches starters and former pro bowlers at that, it will bring on the "has he lost the locker room" talk but he is going nowhere. People who don't like him need to just accept it. He will be here next year.

Sometimes coaches need to get fired. Belicheck, Dungy, Coughlin...all coaches that got fired. Don't really know that any of them would have went on to win it all had they not. Sometimes those lessons aren't learned until a coach is fired.

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Whatever lol

Team was 10 yards from a SB berth and has had an injury ravaged season to the tune that made Jay Glazer say that he has never seen a team with as many significant injuries as the Falcons.

Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville at what happened? He went on to win 2 superbowls in NY. And while in NY there was always talks about him being on the hot seat. Obviously when a coach benches starters and former pro bowlers at that, it will bring on the "has he lost the locker room" talk but he is going nowhere. People who don't like him need to just accept it. He will be here next year.

I will say this for Smith. He has handled this disastrous turn of events with the utmost dignity. Never once has he thrown a player under the buss and repeatedly points his finger to the guy in the mirror as being primarily, and often solely, responsible. I don't know how a player could quit on a guy like this.

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Have they quit on Mike Smith or just on 2013?

I think it's a bit of both. Especially if Smitty is singing the same tune. That record gets old and it's hard to follow the same tune when that song doesn't inspire you the way it used to. In other words change the song or get a knew radio. Even Matt seems uninspired lately. It's hard to play hard on a 2-8 team but Tampa has played very inspired football for the last 3 weeks and they have the same record. Maybe if he approaches the week different than in the past it may inspire guys.

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I think it's a bit of both. Especially if Smitty is singing the same tune. That record gets old and it's hard to follow the same tune when that song doesn't inspire you the way it used to. In other words change the song or get a knew radio. Even Matt seems uninspired lately. It's hard to play hard on a 2-8 team but Tampa has played very inspired football for the last 3 weeks and they have the same record. Maybe if he approaches the week different than in the past it may inspire guys.

As the Giants have shown us, players can tune the coach out one year and bounce right back under him the next, so ultimately, how much of this do you put on a 6th year coach? If it was a 3rd year coach, I could see the doubt.

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As the Giants have shown us, players can tune the coach out one year and bounce right back under him the next, so ultimately, how much of this do you put on a 6th year coach? If it was a 3rd year coach, I could see the doubt.

Exactly. But even Coughlin changed his approach a little. I think they'll be right back on his side after this disaster of a season is over but he may need to tweak a few things. A good draft and offseason will do the trick. Even with all the injuries I think losing Julio took the wind out of players sails. They played with effort up until that point. The Arizona game set it off.

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Whatever lol

Team was 10 yards from a SB berth and has had an injury ravaged season to the tune that made Jay Glazer say that he has never seen a team with as many significant injuries as the Falcons.

Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville at what happened? He went on to win 2 superbowls in NY. And while in NY there was always talks about him being on the hot seat. Obviously when a coach benches starters and former pro bowlers at that, it will bring on the "has he lost the locker room" talk but he is going nowhere. People who don't like him need to just accept it. He will be here next year.

But, with Coughlin, he completely changed his style of coaching at NY. Players hated playing for him early in his coaching career, but now they love playing for him. He's talked about how he switched his view and attitude a lot.

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I think that's as astute observation and a great question.

I just can't grasp the idea that these players could quit on a man that has brought them so much success. I can see players quitting on a Petrino or Mora, but not Smith--not this early all things considered.

However, when in the past the local newspaper start writing like this it often leads to trouble.

That was mainly back when the Smiths ran the team. The papers would suggest something, then the Falcons brass seemed to follow along. If you notice, DOL is now our beatwriter for the AJC. He really does not post an opinion nor does he do much in the way of creative journalism. I would reckon this is because the AJC realizes by now that AB isn't going to let the papers run his business.

Even Schultz here does not directly advocate firing Smitty. He is asking if Smitty has lost the team. If the answer is not a good one Smitty might be fired then.

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As the Giants have shown us, players can tune the coach out one year and bounce right back under him the next, so ultimately, how much of this do you put on a 6th year coach? If it was a 3rd year coach, I could see the doubt.

Not just a sixth year coach, but a man who came in here and put what was a terrible Falcons team on the winning track with a few key FA signings and a pretty good draft, overall anyway.

At some point....the players have to take some responsibility for thier own play. Smitty did not tell Holmes or Manley to come in out of shape. Smitty does not tell players to miss tackles or tackle high or to not give effort. Smitty sure isn't telling the O line to miss blocks and give up ground to opposing players so that Ryan and SJax can get smacked around.

More and more, the problems I see appear to be attributable to players who are just not good enough, either physically mentally or both. If that is the case then changing coaches will not help.

Whatever the case may be, Smitty has earned a pass on this season, maybe even more. At this point I am all for losing some PLAYERS...not Smitty.

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Would another coach have made a measurable difference in this circumstance of limited talent, depth and health?

I actually think so. Take Pittsburgh and New York for example, two teams that I expected to be pretty bad this year so I wasn't surprised to see them struggle early. They're still not any more talented than we are really for as much as we moan and groan. Pitt has a terrible Oline, didn't have a good RB situation, and their D continues to get older. NY has 2 pass rushers that have been getting by on reputation more than anything, a terrible LB crew and a pretty bad secondary as well. Their RB situation was also a mess.

Those teams have actually responded though. They likely won't make the playoffs but they haven't quit. It's been very obvious that the Falcons are indeed just going through the motions now. I said earlier this week even a team like Jacksonville is out there fighting as the season goes on. Houston only has 2 wins but they're still competing in games as well even though they continue to lose close games late. Same goes for Tampa and Minnesota to be honest.

When a team stops responding to the message...*shrugs

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Whatever lol

Team was 10 yards from a SB berth and has had an injury ravaged season to the tune that made Jay Glazer say that he has never seen a team with as many significant injuries as the Falcons.

Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville at what happened? He went on to win 2 superbowls in NY. And while in NY there was always talks about him being on the hot seat. Obviously when a coach benches starters and former pro bowlers at that, it will bring on the "has he lost the locker room" talk but he is going nowhere. People who don't like him need to just accept it. He will be here next year.

Stop. Why were 10 yards away in the first place? last time I checked we were up by a decent score and went into Smitty mode 2nd half. if there was killer instict on this team 10 yards away isn't an issue. Speaking on this season we were healthy the new orleans game and came out playing smitty ball, what is your excuse for that?
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It's possible that it's the latter more than the former, but a coach isn't doing his job if either happens IMHO.

If Blank fires Smitty, Mike Smith will go to Tampa Bay and beat our Falcons' butts twice a year for a decade.

And then posters will come in here saying, "See! I knew this would happen if we fired Smitty!", heh...

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If Blank fires Smitty, Mike Smith will go to Tampa Bay and beat our Falcons' butts twice a year for a decade.

And then posters will come in here saying, "See! I knew this would happen if we fired Smitty!", heh...

I think Schiano is actually keeping this job.

Smith may go on and be a great coach, he may go on and be a Marty Schottenheimer type coach. He may not get another bite at the apple. Who knows.

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