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Mike Nolan and Mike Smith aren't the best of friends right now, but is it just a bad stretch?

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Fact: Mike Nolan once killed a man during a staring contest

Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Nolan is not your favorite person right now. In fact, if you're like me, he's sitting comfortably atop your you-know-what list. And while it's admittedly easy to scapegoat his head-scratching play calls and misuse of the limited defensive talent the Falcons have, there's always another side of the story.

Let's imagine for a moment that Nolan, one away or another, isn't with the team next year. He's either coaching for a different team or not affiliated with any team. I'm not going to speculate about which option is more likely, but it doesn't matter anyway. All that matters is that he's in a position to be critical of this year's team. He's in a position to be frank about what wasn't working and why. What does he say?

Frankness about how the team as a whole is run isn't Nolan's thing right now. It's not something he's comfortable being frank about. If it were up to him, he'd run his defense, Dirk Koetter would run his offense, and Mike Smith would just pat everyone on the back. But that's not the head coach's role. And it's not what the head coach is there for - like it or not, whether to go for it on fourth and one when you're down by seven points with less than five minutes remaining in the game is the head coach's decision to make. Right or wrong, the decision and it's ultimate consequences belong to the head coach.

"That question is, it really needs to be the head coach to answer it," Nolan said during his media availability Tuesday. "All I would do is divide. I don’t want to. . . there’s s no good answer for me on that one, all right?"

Smith decided to try for a first down with the Falcons trailing 27-20 with 4:48 to play, holding three timeouts, and facing a fourth-and-1 at their 29-yard line. Matt Ryan was sacked by Giants defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, and the Giants put the game away on Josh Brown’s 26-yard field goal with 2:11 to play.

But Nolan said what he said. It's out there. He obviously took it as a jab at his unit's performance, whether Smith intended that or not. Because it's unlikely Smith meant anything by it, it's a little awkward that Nolan took the passive aggressive route. It begs the question: what's he really thinking?

So let's fast forward a bit, to place that isn't too hard to imagine; a place where Nolan isn't affiliated with the team anymore. What's his recollection of the state of affairs at Flowery Branch right now? Is he dissatisfied? Was he just caught up in the moment during an exceedingly difficult stretch? That's your call, and I'm curious about your thoughts. Discuss!