Smith didn't screw up last year, Thomas D. did!! Unless Blank has met someone he really likes,
TD may be safe; Blank is really afraid of firing the Gm, because he can't hire.
This team still does not have the players to win consistently!!
Smith did screw up last year. The problem Cyril, is that you're basing your opinion on Smith entirely off what he did from 2008-12 and completely ignoring the "red flags" displayed last year. Look, if we're talking about what Smith has done in general over the course of his body of work, there is a lot more good than bad. But you can't simply ignore what we saw last year because there were a lot of negative signs.
From 2008-12, the Falcons relative to most NFL teams never had to deal with major injuries. Sure, a couple of guys like Baker, Spoon and Grimes were beat up over that span, but for the most part the Falcons would only have to worry about a key player missing a game or two, maybe a month at any point.
Smith's success over that span has largely been on the team's ability to keep things close, and then in the 4th quarter turn the keys over to either Michael Turner (from 2008-09) or Matt Ryan (2010-12) to win the game in the end. Before Turner got hurt in 2009, the Falcons were 5-3. Then the team went 1-4 over their next 5 games when Turner barely played, and then closed out the season with 3 straight wins thanks mainly to 2 games against 2 bad teams. Their only quality win came on a last-minute drive against the Jets thanks to their inept red zone offense and a blocked FG by Chauncey Davis. 3 of those 4 losses came in the final minutes. You may recall Ryan throwing a horrible pick vs. CAR in the final 5 minutes, an OT loss to the Giants after a game-tying drive by Gonzo in the final minutes of regulation, and Redman's inability to put the team in FG range in the final minute after throwing a pick to Vilma on the previous drive.
The point is that without their closer, this team couldn't consistently win such close games.
This past year, with injuries to Roddy White during the first 5 games, this team lost 4 games in the closing minutes because their offense could not score in the red zone and finish drives.
After Julio got hurt, and the Falcons beat up on a hapless Bucs team, the ceased to be competitive for the next 4 games because they kept trying to play the keep it close and we'll win in the end. But without the playmakers on offense to keep it close, this team was in a position where they needed to dial things up. But they instead dialed things down, and got blown out in their next 4 games by an average of 3 scores. They kept it close for 3 quarters vs. Carolina, but because they had no playmakers at WR and thus Carolina blew the doors off them in the 4th quarter.
Then when a healthy Roddy came back in Week 12 vs. the Saints, they started to look competitive again. With Roddy drawing coverages vs. NO, guys like DJ and HD were able to exploit the other Saints weak DBs and keep the team in the game. Unfortunately they couldn't close (thanks in large part to DJ's fumble). Thanks to some costly Bills turnovers late, they were able to close the following week to get their 3rd win of the year. They couldn't close vs. GB despite 3 chances to take the lead in the 4th quarter. Thanks to a failed 2 point conversion vs. Washington, they did close for their 4th win. And of course vs. SF and Carolina, they had chances late to close, but Bowman's INT and Hawley's botched snap ruined those chances.
The point is this team is like a baseball team that relies on a good starting rotation of pitchers, and a strong closer as opposed to having any real hitters in their lineup to win games.
But that ability to close has been largely based on health, which is unpredictable. When guys like Turner, Ryan, White or Jones have been injured over the past 5 years, this team has really struggled to close.
Their success has been largely built off luck, not excellent coaching ability. That was the revelation that I came to this past year. Because when presented with that point in the middle of the year where they lacked the pieces to keep things closed, they ceased to be competitive because the coaching staff MADE NO ADJUSTMENTS to try and make them competitive again. Their offense has been contingent on being able to convert 3rd downs, dinking and dunking their way down the field and finishing off the in the red zone, because they have 3 very good receivers that are hard to cover by all but an elite defense. But if you take away just 1 of those guys, most teams are capable of adjusting their coverages (they'll double 1) and hoping they have 1 other good DB to match up 1 on 1 with the other. And that makes their ability to finish drives at negligible at best. In 2013, they were missing 2 of those guys for most of the year, and this team didn't adjust their offense to adapt without them. They couldn't rely on dink/dunking their way downfield because they didn't have WRs that could reliably separate and get open on a consistent basis. They couldn't finish drives because they failed to utilize Gonzo in the red zone and their 2nd best red zone threat sat the bench for the most part (Toilolo), instead opting to go with guys like HD & DJ who are allergic to the red zone. Their defense was the worst it's been in 6 years, and usually around the end of the 1st quarter or midway through the 2nd quarter would crack under pressure and start giving up big plays and long drives. And thus this team instead of trying to keep things close, needed to make the adjustment that they needed to come out of the gates roaring in the hopes that they could build an early lead and just hold on for the final 2-3 quarters. They didn't do this once, outside the Bills game, which was in fact their best offensive performance of the ENTIRE season. Coincidence? No.
If they're healthy, they will consistently win those close games wight their conservative. But if they're not, this coaching staff hasn't shown it's capable of being able to adjust to adversity, and this is team that when missing one of their Big 4, is like 4-12 in close games.
The key to the Falcons success hasn't been their coaching over the years, it's essentially been their training staff
. That's what 2013 showed me.
That doesn't make Mike Smith a bad coach, but it just means he's not nearly as pivotal to our success as you think he is.
But other than that, I think you're assessment of the team is right. They feel
like a 9-7 team, but that will largely be dependent on their ability to stay healthy for the majority of the season.