The praise train keeps rolling on!
ESPN's Pat Yasinskas has been ranking positions all through the off-season in the NFC South, and the Falcons have been at the top or close to it of most of these rankings. The frosting on this cake of enthusiasm has to be the latest article, where Mike Smith and his merry band of coordinators and coaches draw the top spot out of the four teams, beating hot shot New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, oft-lauded Carolina Panthers coach John Fox and rookie head coach Raheem Morris for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a pretty incredible honor after a single year.
Smith has been successful because he's a players' coach, but he's also a gruff son of a gun who expects the best everyone in the organization can give. Mike Mularkey has drawn some fire for scheming in a way that seems to recall James Bond villains (Turner, you'll clear the spike trap just in time for Baker to throw the screaming defender into the bottomless minefield), but there's no denying his creativity and he's smartly used his players in a way that will help them succeed. Brian VanGorder should do very well next season with more firepower on the defense. Overall, it's a staff that can safely be accused of putting the team in a position to succeed while staying firmly in the background. Can't say I mind that.
Of course, the turnover of coaching staffs at the NFL level suggests that Mularkey and VanGorder may not be around forever if their success continues. It's a testament to Mike Smith's strength as a coach that I believe we could weather that, but hopefully that's not something we're going to have to deal with any time soon. I like change as much as the next guy, but only if it's for the better.
What are your thoughts on Smith & Co.?