Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith was fired Monday after completing a 6-10 campaign in 2014 and going 10-22 the past two seasons.
“Smitty’s contributions to our club, team and city over the last seven years are numerous,” owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. “His accomplishments on the field made him the most successful coach in the 49-year history of the Falcons, and we are grateful for the foundation he has laid for us for the future.”
The Falcons lost five of six after winning the regular-season opener in overtime, and it became apparent the team’s aspirations of contending in the NFC were unfounded. Smith was 66-46 with the Falcons, including four playoff appearances.
“This was not a decision based on one season,” Blank said.
Blank is not expected to fire general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Dimitroff, previously college scouting director of the New England Patriots, was hired as a first-time personnel boss months before he chose Smith, then defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as Atlanta’s head coach.
The Falcons lost Sunday, 34-3, to the Carolina Panthers, missing a chance to sneak into the playoffs as NFC South champions.
“As all NFL owners learn, some NFL end-of-season decisions are more difficult than others. This is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make,” Blank said. “It was complicated by the deepest respect I have for Smitty.”
Considering Smith’s calling card was defense, ranking dead last in total defense and 30th in sacks were most problematic in reviewing his credentials to return.
Atlanta might have the most attractive opening this offseason considering the skill-position talent in the fold, headlined by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. The defense is not devoid of young talent, but a pass rusher and another playmaker at defensive back are likely to be high on the priority list of Smith’s replacement.
The Falcons went to the playoffs in four of Smith’s seven seasons, including the 2012 NFC Championship game. Atlanta led the 49ers in that game through three quarters.
“It’s about winning football games,” Smith said Sunday. “And that’s how you’re judged. I understand that.”