Posted: 8:42 am Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Falcons’ Smith is NFL’s 18th-best coach, per ESPN 

By Mark Bradley

"I might be No. 18, Pete, but I'm 1-0 against you in the playoffs." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“I might be No. 18, Pete, but I’m 1-0 against you in the playoffs.” (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I’m not a major fan of everything ESPN does — I’m not sure the Worldwide Leader itself is a major fan of everything it does — but I do enjoy those features where anonymous coaches/executives share their thoughts. Regarding college football, Travis Haney does these on a regular basis for ESPN Insider; regarding the NFL, they’re the province of Mike Sando.

In July, Sando polled his nameless electorate and found that Matt Ryan was considered the NFL’s eighth-best quarterback. (That sounded a tad low to me, especially considering there was a four-way tie for eighth, but what do I know?) This week Sando applied the same treatment to coaches, and the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith fared … er, less well than his quarterback.

Per Sando’s rankings, Smith is the 18th-best coach. In a 32-team league. Writes Sando:

There’s a strong feeling the Falcons should have fared better in the playoffs than they have under Smith. “He is an interesting one only because I like him and thought he was really good,” one long-time evaluator said. “I’m not sure what happened there last year, but the mark of a good one is how they bounce back from that. Right now, you probably have to say (Tier) 3 for him. That could go either way, and that is crazy because they have won a lot of games.

Well, yes. Even after going 4-12 last season, Smith’s career regular-season record is 60-36, which is a winning percentage of .625. Pete Carroll, who’s ranked No. 2 behind Bill Belichick in Sando’s survey, has a career winning percentage of .555. Yes, Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks did just win the Super Bowl, but he has had — over three stops — four winning seasons in eight tries. Smith has had five in six.

Such ratings are invariably a function of what-have-you-done-in-the-playoffs, but here are men ranked above Smith: No. 12 Chip Kelly, who has worked one NFL season and hasn’t won a playoff game; No. 13 Bruce Arians, who has worked one full season — plus 12 games of another as an interim head coach — and hasn’t won a playoff game; No. 15 Marvin Lewis, who has worked 11 seasons with a winning percentage of .514 and hasn’t won a playoff game, and No. 16 Chuck Pagano, who has worked one full season and won one playoff game.

I’m certain that if Smith’s one losing season had come in Year 1, as opposed to Year 6, he’d have been in the top 10. Still, I’m not sure one down year should override five consecutive winning ones. Not faulting Sando here — he’s going on what his unnamed voices tell him — but this seems way low to me.

Oh, and one thing more: At No. 18, Smith is ranked one spot ahead of Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley, who has worked one NFL season and whose Jacksonville Jaguars went 4-12.

 

49 comments
WilliamCoit
WilliamCoit

Falcons will bounce back this year and go 9-7 and make the playoffs. A lot of that depends on the strength of the offensive line and how well they protect Matt Ryan. Coaching can help the younger players mature faster so Coach Smith and staff must do a better job of motivating players after loses. 


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PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

The way he has handled Antone Smith's career has been a travesty, as we saw again tonight.  Every time that man touches the ball he seems to gain 40+ yards.  Give him a chance to play on offense, Coach Smith.

Wilbo
Wilbo

I rate Coach Smitty about on par w Atlanta sports writers.


ColdSplash
ColdSplash

Unbelievabley overrated. Hasn't won anything of consequence with a ton of talent.

Intruder
Intruder

He doesn't beat the good teams and he is totally dependent on his coordinators. That's why he is searching for good ones. And that .625 winning percentage came mostly against non contenders. His winning percentage vs playoff teams is .28%.

Esquire
Esquire

Let's not kid ourselves.  If he was among the 10 best we would have a Lombardi in our trophy case up in Flowery Branch.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

My biggest disappointment with Smitty is his defensive background has not translated to anything but average defenses here. One would think that side of the ball would be our strength year in and year out.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

If regular season success meant anything, ATL teams (and UGA for that matter) would hold as many national titles as there are onions in Vidalia. Unfortunately, success in the regular season provides nothing more than a ticket into the postseason where our teams must hold multiple records for meltdowns and epic failures. Hard to believe that one city (and Universiry) could be collectively this bad when it counts.

slydawg
slydawg

I understand your point about the less experienced coaches who are ranked ahead of Mike Smith, but, going into season #7, the man and his QB are 1-5 in the playoffs. He has a better record against the AFC overall than the conference he coaches in (gee, I wonder why?). His record against winning teams, or those above .500, is mediocre, I think hovering just below .500. What is his record against the Falcons biggest rival, New Orleans, who also won their first Super Bowl on his watch? Just like Richt in Athens, time to stop living off of your regular season winning percentage built up over a long period of time and bring home the bacon. At the very least, get to the big game.

Also, given a poll, most folks, by perception, would say Marvin Lewis, Andy Reid, John Fox, Jeff Fisher, Lovey Smith, and Rex Ryan are better coaches, whether it's fair or unfair.

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

In my opinion Coach Smith hasn't done bad with the talent that Dimitroff has drafted.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

Bradley, it seems all you ever do is quote ESPN and write about how they rank the Bulldoggies or how they rank the Falcons or their coaches.


I miss the good old days when you actually used to write original sports op pieces that weren't just quoting some talking head on ESPN.

MTSeats
MTSeats

Average coach because of no improvement in the those 2nd half let-downs

Wilbo
Wilbo

Atlanta pro-sports-itus. Can't win when it counts. Just remember when you get close a few times and choke, everybody starts to believe they are gonna get smacked down when the big prize is on the line and then they play worse and worse when it counts, until it gets to where they don't even make it to games that count. Vicious cycle, and I believe it is in play w the Falcons. Anytime you envision the Falcons doing well when it counts, whisper to yourself, "24-2    24-2    24-2    24-2    24-2    24-2    24-2"


He's been a plenty good enough regular season coach, but he has an organizational choking problem, I don't think he'll be able to confront. Couple-3  years from now, eighteenth may sound extremely generous.

96JB
96JB

Generous.

PhilipHarden
PhilipHarden

Smith is a very good coach. But very good coaches don't always win big. (see Marty Shottenheimer). Espn rankings of anything- other than the best hot dog stands in Bristol, which is still debatable-- is arbitrary and virtually worthless.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Come on.  Is this just a stupid guy thing or what?  Rankings are like kids standing on a hill, having a peeing contest.  It is meaningless.  


Now a real test of one's worth is their ability to defeat death.  Have all 32 head coaches play a Russian Roulette Tournament and tell me who the still living "top 18" are.  


You act like head coaches are super heroes, with a few faster than a speeding bullet (overall winning %), more powerful than a locomotive (Super Bowl appearances), and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (Super Bowl victories)!  America does not need to waste that power on coaching a measly football team.  We need them leading our troops into battle, saving the children from harm's way.  In fact, we need ESPN and the other pee judges behind them, ahead of our children in the military, with sports writers in front of our babies too.  Maybe we can get some friendly fire going then.

LostGoat
LostGoat

that's an insult!  Arthur needs to put this up on the bulletin board to motivate smith and the players, asap!

reckingball
reckingball

With the pitching that he had, the team should have won 5 world series..........no wait,......you're talking about  Mike Smith,......never mind.

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

It's almost like there were no objective criteria and the respondents were making it up as they went.

KatieR620
KatieR620

Smith is probably underrated while our well coiffed GM is tremendously, spectacularly overrated.


Let's hope he finally got something right in the front 7 on defense. 

KatieR620
KatieR620

If the GM hadn't been so bad since 2008 they probably would have faired better in the playoffs, they have never lost to a team in the playoffs that had less talent.  They have always been up against it when it came to talent on the field.  Smith hasn't been great, and he's been slow to change what isn't working,  but the talent more so than the coaching has been the reason for the lack of success. The defense is woefully understaffed and they have to know that and they have to have known that for some time.


It's like every other team in this state,  pretty good talent,  pretty good coaching,  but not close to the best teams,  and not close to winning anything of merit. 


Also,  the next time Sando writes something kind about this club will be the 1st time.

DrPhill
DrPhill

I don't know about Smith, but his assistants appear to be vulgarians of limited intelligence.

AntoineFord
AntoineFord

What keeps him in the "mediocre" category is that he can't call plays or make in-game adjustments. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Don't put all the blame on Smith.... He plays the players TD give him, so blame TD for 90% of the last season. This year is the tell all season, win are get gone for both...

Same for Braves  fire Wren and Fredi when season is over...


TimeforTea
TimeforTea

Let Marvin Lewis, Bruce Arians, or Petey inherit the same train wreck that was the Atlanta Falcons and see if they go 5 out of 6 winning seasons and multiple playoff births!  What a laughable evaluation of coaches.  Pete inherited a franchise in a MUCH better position than did Smitty.  Holmgren at least left him something.  Arians hasn't been a head coach long enough to even BE in the discussion.  Marvin Lewis always has talented teams that underperform...granted he was in a tough division over the last decade with Pittsburgh and Ravens in there.  Remember Pete was also run out of his first head coaching gig.  


Last year was an anomaly.  No team loses 30% of it's starters and wins many.  Period.


Smitty is WAY better than people give him credit for.  He may not be the most eloquent communicator, but he's a heck of a head coach in my book.  


The talent evaluation and player development may be an issue, but it's not like they haven't tried to address that this season.  Bringing in new position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and Pioli. 


I think 2014 is gonna be pretty good honestly.

ByteMe
ByteMe

I don't think he makes his players better than they are or the team better than the sum of its players, so that makes him just an average coach.  Same with Richt.  Another average coach could do the same job.

zho18
zho18

I would rank him higher as a "coach" and towards the bottom for everything else . Between coach Smith and Thomas Dimitroff , their drafting and developing players is terrible . Just my opinion .

keendaddy
keendaddy

Maybe this poll would be better at the end of the year. As it is, I'd say the nameless ones who make up the polling data, just aren't impressed with history or facts. ESPN, can kiss my Southern grits!

Savdon
Savdon

For the life of me I don't understand the attraction to pencil-thin, fat-lipped women, yet they garner most of the attention.  It's in the eye of the beholder.  Same thing here.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Mark,

Can you publish the full list or provide a link that will? 

Edit:  Never-mind...I just saw and clicked on the link for ESPN Insider.  Not signing up for that garbage just to have access to this its.

RangeRover
RangeRover

I'm not the greatest Mike Smith fan but come on!  Marvin Lewis?

I'd rank Smith anywhere from 8-12 and this season will push him into the top 10 or push him out of the top 20.

JackClemens
JackClemens

No, he's better than that. Oh, am I first again?

Wilbo
Wilbo

@GeorgeJetsen Georgie, I'm not even sure the peeps around here understand what the postseason is for. The performance of Atlanta pro sports teams is somewhat akin to getting her into bed and naked, but then falling asleep.

slydawg
slydawg

You can say that three times. Hard Knocks actually made Domitroff look no smarter than a fantasy football nerd.

TimeforTea
TimeforTea

@PhilipHarden Hear. Hear!


Nor do good coaches fumble on the goal line, drop balls running in for passing scores (looking at you H.D.), throw picks, fumble snaps, or injure themselves training.  A LOT more goes into wins and losses than just how good your coach is.  Not an excuse.  FACT.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Smitty'd be the first to tell you he's underperformed where it counts-in the playoffs. Particularly given ownership's full financial commitment to building a SB caliber team. Regular season trophies may mean everything to Liberty Media, Atlanta Spirit, and the powers that be at UGA , but I can assure you that Mr. Blank will not be satisfied for long by such measures.

UGA76
UGA76

@TimeforTea  Smith can only play and coach the players available to him.  I think Fantasy Football Dimitroff has done a bottom 5 job as GM in supplying those players.  Drafting injury prone players way too high and then once those players proved to be injury prone in the NFL not replacing them or at least having a contingency plan is going to bite us in the caboose again this year. 

We still have 2 holes on the OL and nobody to rush the passer.  Fantasy football tip, always start the skill players that are playing the Falcons especially the QB.   

slydawg
slydawg

Or not being able to..... "Rise Up."

slydawg
slydawg

So every coach who has won a Super Bowl, even multiple Super Bowls, were just lucky according to your logic. Harry Douglas tripping on his own feet from a badly thrown pass occurred when the Falcons had the lead, in a game they led by three touchdowns, no less. Now a great coach can overcome these mishaps. Smith cannot. A spade is a spade.

TimeforTea
TimeforTea

@UGA76 @TimeforTea


I hear you on Dimitroff with taking injured players too high.  Hopefully he's learning his lesson and I think that bringing in Pioli was a step in the direction of having a sounding board that's not afraid to disagree with him and bounce concerns / shore up his draft weaknesses.  Hey at least we DID draft probably the best LT available this time around and I think Hageman is going to do well.  Bringing in two huge 3-4 defensive linemen is going to help our pass rush AND run defense as well as the best RG available in Asamoah will also help our OL.  So it's not like they aren't trying to make adjustments.  Keep in mind only one losing season despite that.  So when they were faced with the problem they've tried to address it I think.  So we'll see how 2014 plays out.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

@slydawg  if Harry trips  over his own feet again Devin Hester will be there to get hose touches....