Falcons Pick M. Smith as Coach

The Atlanta Falcons have picked Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith to be their head coach, an NFL source said.

The two sides are negotiating a contract and, barring any last-minute snags, the hiring will be announced later today, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Falcons have not acknowledged their decision publicly.

Smith was the Falcons' choice from among a group of finalists that also included fellow defensive coordinators Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings, Steve Spagnuolo of the New York Giants and Rex Ryan of the Baltimore Ravens. Many people around the league thought that Spagnuolo would get the job, but the Falcons would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire him and that would have put them behind in assembling a coaching staff and preparing for free agency and the NFL draft.

The Falcons tried but failed to hire Jason Garrett earlier when he chose to remain the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, and owner Arthur Blank failed to convince USC Coach Pete Carroll to consider returning to the NFL. The Falcons also interviewed Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Sparano was hired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Caldwell was named to succeed Colts Coach Tony Dungy when Dungy retires.

Smith, 48, has been the Jaguars' defensive coordinator for the past five seasons. He spent four seasons before that as an assistant with the Ravens, coaching first the team's defensive line and then its linebackers. He played linebacker for a season in the Canadian Football League and then began his coaching career as a part-time assistant at San Diego State in 1982 working with Brian Billick, who eventually brought him to the NFL with the Ravens.

In Atlanta, Smith inherits a Falcons team that went 4-12 ths season. Bobby Petrino quit 13 games into his rookie season as an NFL head coach to return to the college ranks at Arkansas, and interim coach Emmitt Thomas finished the season. The Falcons were without quarterback Michael Vick, who received a 23-month federal prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation and is on indefinite suspension by the NFL.

Smith's hiring would complete a housecleaning by Blank, who dismissed Rich McKay as general manager but retained him as team president. Blank tried but failed to hire Bill Parcells to oversee the franchise's football operations, then hired New England Patriots scouting executive Tom Dimitroff to replace McKay as general manager.

By Mark Maske |  January 23, 2008; 12:44 PM ET  | Category:  Falcons
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It doesn't much matter who Arthur Blank hires, they can't win games without good players. A good draft is essential, without it they face another dismal year.

Posted by: oscar m. coile | January 23, 2008 3:43 PM

Who was the Rooney Rule candidate? Was he given a chance to compete? or was he even seriously considered?

Posted by: RaiderFan | January 23, 2008 5:33 PM

NEED TO TALK TO ARTHUR BLANK, REGARDING A HIGH PROFILE CANDIDATE WHICH WOULD, IN MY OPINION BE A HIGHLY RESPECTABLE CANDIDATE FOR THE HEAD COACHING POSITION OF THE ATLANTA FALCONS. I KNOW THAT THE WHOLE SPORTING WORLD WOULD BE IN FAVOR OF THIS CHOICE. EMAIL ADDRESS WZEZENSKI@COMCAST.COM

Posted by: Ralph Zezenski | January 23, 2008 6:08 PM

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