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Six Years - Time Is Up


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(This is the 3rd part of a topic I've been watching since 2011)

I know some have said that the first losing season in six should pose no threat to coach Smith's job. That understandably points to a measure of success, as does being named coach of the year more than once. After this season, a turn around in 2014 might be enough for yet another coach of the year award. Those are nice and if that is all he was hired for, then break out the confetti, it's time to celebrate.

Every Falcons head coach not designated as interim, is tasked with the goal of winning a championship. Against that objective, it isn't one bad year in six, it is six failures in six years.

The only Falcons coach to ever reach the Super Bowl did so in his second year. How quickly that milestone occurs has historically proven to be a bellwether for winning the Lombardi trophy.

Looking only at the five Super Bowls played since Smith has coached Atlanta, nine different coaches took their teams to the Super Bowl. It would have been 10 out of a possible 10 if not for two appearances in that time by Tomlin. Every head coach appearing in the Super Bowl during that time has something in common. Each took five years or less to take their teams to the Super Bowl. Bellichick and Coughlin, returned to the Super Bowl during that time, but they too originally reached and won the Super Bowl within their first five years of coaching those teams, not time in the league. What's more, four of those five coaches were first time winners of the Super Bowl.

Going back further, Cowher took 14 years to win a Super Bowl (probably the longest of any coach in history), but even he coached his first Super Bowl within five years of hire. It should become evident as you read on that among Super Bowl coaches, those taking more than five years are the exception, not the rule. New faces appearing in and winning the Super Bowl within five years at a team, that's the modern NFL. The more time passes beyond that period, the more likely they never will.

2013 again has numerous new in the league coaches in the hunt. Rivera, Pagano, and McCoy to name a few. Reid, Fox & Carroll are also within five years at their current teams. It is almost certain that each coach in the upcoming Super Bowl will have been coaching their teams five years or less in their first appearance at the Super Bowl.

The list of Super Bowl coaches below cover roughly 30 years and the roughly 40 names appearing here demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of them reached the title game within five years of hiring, with most winning it in that time. { Some names may have been omitted as what I did would not pass a level of effort that I would call research, but it is fairly accurate despite that. }

These coaches (green text) won the Super Bowl within 5 years of being HC in the league. The names of Super Bowl winners have been underlined throughout.

Harbaugh (BAL)




Shannahan (DEN)



Holmgren (GB)

Parcells (NYG)


J. Johnson






These coaches reached the Super Bowl within five years of hire at (team). Years in league as HC at time of first Super Bowl. Again winners names underlined.

Harbaugh (SF)

Coughlin (NYG) 12

Bellichick (NE) 7



L. Smith

Dungy (IND) 11

Cowher 5

Fox (CAR)




Vermeil (STL) 5@ PHI

Reeves (ATL) 6 @ DEN


Levy (BUF) 10




Shula (MIA)

Reid, Fisher and Noll each took six years, Madden eight and Landry 11 years to reach. Some of those coached, before the time of 16 game seasons, free agency and even before the AFL/NFL merger when the league was vastly different. I did not bother looking any closer at those because they are more anomalous than representative in many ways.

Last year I saw a list of coaches who took more than five years in the league to win the Super Bowl. Many if not all of them appear above in the second group of names (black text and underlined) and they too coached the title game within five years of hire at their team (in most cases, their second head coaching job). When Smith failed to reach the Super Bowl in his fifth year, he further set himself back from those that went on to win.

Note that the number of coaches who won Super Bowls within their first five years in the league, and by extension the total number of titles won by that group far exceeds the number won by those who took six or more years.

Smith's failure is even more stark, when you realize that in the era of free agency, no head coach has ever led a team to the Super Bowl after failing to do so within six years at that team . The few that took longer,were coaching pre-merger or free agency.

Six years is a generously long time in the NFL, enough for every Super Bowl participant and winner of the free agency era to have overcome setbacks related to GM's, injuries and every other excuse.

Mike Smith has been called the greatest coach in Atlanta Falcons history. That is certainly true where the regular season is concerned. In fact his regular season winning percentage is among the highest of active coaches, even better than some of those who won Super Bowls during his time, it even ranks highly among some of the league's historical icons. Unfortunately, Mike Smith's great regular season record presents an amazing paradox in contrast to his post season record.

Even within the Atlanta Falcons, an organization more synonymous with failure than success, he is far from the best. Six different coaches have led Falcons teams to the playoffs, Smith is but one game removed from being the Falcons all time worst playoff coach. It is equally true to say that Smith was 10 yards from the Super Bowl, as it is to say that he was one missed field goal away from being the worst Falcons coach ever. Smith along with June Jones would have shared a .000 post season winning percentage - the lowest in Atlanta Falcons history.

Reeves - .600

Glanville - .500

Mora - .500

Bennett - .250

Smith - .200

J. Jones - .000

It is simply not enough to win in the regular season. Championships are only awarded to post season winners.Smith's four losses in five appearances indicate that his post season record may be more dreadful than his regular season record is good. It should come as no surprise that a coach whose post season record ranks so poorly within the Atlanta Falcons would also be among the worst in the annals of the NFL.

Smith's .200 post season winning percentage is so wretched, that several of the coaches renowned for their failures have higher post season winning percentages. Among them, Schottenheimer .278, H. Edwards .333, D. Green .333, Coryell .333. Even the often maligned N.Turner .500 has a much higher playoff winning percentage. There are only a few with the same or worse playoff winning percentages. W. Fontes .200, W. Phillips .167, Mora (dad) .000 and the still active M. Lewis .000. (He may win a playoff game, but will not reach the SB.)

Even worse, Smith's postseason record isn't just slightly below .500, but well below it. I repeatedly found that coaches had an overall .500 >= post season winning percentage at the moment they coached in Super Bowls, whether first or repeats. Coughlin first appeared in the Super Bowl in his 12th year as an NFL coach, but only his 4th at NYG. He left Jags with 4 - 4 post season record .500 winning percentage, lost the first two playoffs at NYG, for an overall 4 - 6 record .400. The following year he entered the Super Bowl with an overall 7 - 6 record .538 , which he won to go 8 - 6 overall. This was true not only of Super Bowl winners such as Cowher, Dungy, Bellichick, (the ones typically cited as examples of how long it can take to win) but for those who lost as well. They simply never fell as far below .500 prior to reaching the Super Bowl as Smith has.

Nearly every Super Bowl coach has a career > .500 post season record, including many who lost. The only winner below .500 is Dungy .474, He left TB with a 2-4 .333 record but he pulled that up to 8-8 upon winning the conference championship with IND prior to the Super Bowl. His average only fell below .500 again in later years, and that's what I saw with those other coaches who at least appeared in the SB, but have sub .500 career post season records.

If Smith were to win three playoff games consecutively, as in a wild card, he could enter the Super Bowl with a 4-4 .500 record. Conversely, if Smith's next playoff appearance is one and done, then he will have sealed his fate for good because he cannot overcome a 1-5 record, even the wild card scenario would leave him below .500. It is as though career .500 has been established as a minimum threshold albeit unwritten for coaching in the Super Bowl.

Smith's chances haven't dropped to zero, but he is not following previous winners and it should be obvious that the 'a few others have taken longer' argument, is fantasy. It is clearly evident, that far many more coaches have won the championship, or just reached it in less time. The very few that have taken longer did not fall as far below .500 as Smith on their way. Smith's record points more towards failure than success, relative to his peers that have coached Super Bowls in the modern era.

Mike Smith's abysmal playoff record has more than made the case for his firing, and there is precedent for firing a coach with similar regular season success and post season failure - Marty Schottenheimer. As much as the Smitty faithful would like to imagine that he is following the path of Coughlin or Bellichick, his record resembles Schottenheimer's far more closely. Like Smith, Marty's teams didn't suffer many sub .500 regular seasons, only two in his NFL career which kept his overall regular season winning percentage at above .600.

Understand that Schottenheimer's .278 winning percentage is better than Smith's. In over 20 years as a head coach, Marty won only five playoff victories and at a faster pace than Mike Smith, having won two of those within his first five years, compared to only one for Smith in the same period. So even by that five year comparison Smith does not measure up to a coach who never won, let alone reached the Super Bowl and was well known for his post season failures.

I'm inclined to believe that Blank will give Smith a pass this year, and allow him to finish out his contract. Regardless of what Mr. Blank decides, Smith has had more than enough time and has done nothing except to further the case that he is incapable of winning a championship in Atlanta. If Blank's championship pledge to Atlanta is true then it would be a shame if not a sham for him to regard this as only one bad year in six. Smith has six failures in six years.

What Mr. Blank is trying to achieve with Smith through the stability he mentioned some years ago has failed. All historical precedents of stability leading to championships that he may be seeking to emulate involved at least an appearance in the Super Bowl within five years - in the modern era.

The longer he remains, the longer the inevitable is prolonged, he will continue to fail in the post season, if he gets that far. Smith will be fired as coach of the Atlanta Falcons without winning a Super Bowl. Fire Mike Smith, the sooner, the better.

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Guest Cally307a

Good post,

I also posted this exact thing not too long ago and it got shuffled under the rug along with all smittys little demon failures

Smitty was 107 out of 111 in coaches that have a playoff win for postseason win percentage.

He is in the bottom less than 1%

For every smitty there are 99 plus coaches better in the postseason win percentage once they have made it there.

30% against teams above 500 another mind boggler

god lets lock this guy in for another decade so we can continue to blow leads, and eek out nailbiters vs the bottom of the barrell rebuilding teams with new coaches and no qbs

awesome guys

where do i sign up?

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Good post,

I also posted this exact thing not too long ago and it got shuffled under the rug along with all smittys little demon failures

Smitty was 107 out of 111 in coaches that have a playoff win for postseason win percentage.

He is in the bottom less than 1%

For every smitty there are 99 plus coaches better in the postseason win percentage once they have made it there.

30% against teams above 500 another mind boggler

god lets lock this guy in for another decade so we can continue to blow leads, and eek out nailbiters vs the bottom of the barrell rebuilding teams with new coaches and no qbs

awesome guys

where do i sign up?

Yep, being near the bottom of the heap within the Falcons says a lot

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Nice stats, I like them, sry to rain on the parade BUT, in the playoffs, we lost to teams that eventually went on to the Super Bowl, that has to have some merit in Smitty's favor. Then again, I cannot support what the team, players,coaches & upper MGT have done this season. There has to be change.

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Add Kelly to the list of new coaches in the hunt. Four out of the 12 head coaches in this years playoffs are on their first job since 2008. With the sole exception of Lewis every remaining coach has either previously coached in the Super Bowl or is within five years at that job, assuring that the trend continues.

As for Lewis, his team will be eliminated and I suspect that many in Cincy sense that as well, which is how 2014 will be for Atlanta, barring an unlikely change.

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