The Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl for the 1st time since 1999 and only the 2nd time in franchise history. It has been a long journey for these “Birds”, with lots of twists and turns and ebbs and flows. It is well documented the problems that the franchise has endured with the “Michael Vick Debacle” followed by the “Bobby Petrino Cowardly Lion Act” but the team and city has recovered from that low point.
It is very easy to thank current Head Coach Dan Quinn for getting the Falcons to the big game in his 2nd year, it would also be very easy to give kudos to General Manager Thomas Dimitroff for “steering the ship” back on course, but one man was the precursor for this successful period; Former Head Coach Mike Smith.
Yes, Mike Smith. Out of all the coaching candidates that emerged after the troubles of Vick and Petrino, Mike Smith was the last name that anyone thought of when it came to credibility. He had been to several places, widely regarded in coaching circles as a solid football coach and man of character, but he was the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and in a city like Atlanta, your name needs to precede you!! However, the “Dirty Birds” had nowhere to go but up.
The city soon learned that through Mike Smith, you got the strong, silent type. With catch phrases like “trusting the process” and “flexibility” the type of players “Smitty” wanted were high character guys with versatility. You soon learned that under this regime’ you would do things the “Falcon Way” or else. This way resulted in five consecutive winning seasons, when the franchise never had back to back. Mike Smith’s football teams were solid, well coached, and disciplined, finally putting the Falcons back on the national stage. Even though the Smith tenure hit its pinnacle in 2008 and steadily declined 2013 and 2014 seasons’, he should get tremendous credit for bringing the Atlanta Falcons back to respectability.
Jamie Walker is a producer and blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow Jamie on Twitter @coachjdub21 or through email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.