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Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Targets

With all the names swirling about who can replace Mike Smith, we take a look at the likely group of potential future Atlanta Falcon head coaches.

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

It finally happened. The Atlanta Falcons fired Mike Smith not even one day after an all too familiar meltdown when the team had every reason to win.

Now that is enough talking about the past. I am sorry it got so emotional.

Who are Smitty's potential replacements? The following is a brief summary of every coach that has been linked to the Falcons job and other coaches that have been popular names as future NFL head coaches.

Broncos OC Adam Gase

Gase has been popularly linked to the Atlanta Falcons and would make a lot of sense. Oh, also the team has already requested an interview with him. He is the hottest name early in the coach interviewing process. But who is he?

Gase is only 36 years old and has just finished his 2nd year as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. He was handed the OC spot in Denver after Mike McCoy took the head coach position in San Diego. Gase has moved up the coaching ranks in Denver, previously coaching both the wide receivers and quarterbacks.

Gase has done well shifting the Broncos offense away from Peyton Manning's crumbling arm and instead leaned on the run game. The prior Broncos OC has done well in San Diego, but you have to wonder how much of this success is related to an insane amount of talent across the entire Denver offense.

Is Gase an offensive genius or does he just email Manning small ideas about the offense he may wish to consider that never seem to get put into the game?

While he coordinated Manning to a record breaking year and a Super Bowl berth, and the Cleveland Browns were willing to wait until after the Super Bowl to interview Gase, he is still a pretty big unknown, but seems quite adaptive and can make adjustments where necessary.

Seahawks DC Dan Quinn

Quinn is another coordinator the Falcons have requested to interview. Similar to Gase, Quinn has coordinated at en elite level for just last two years, filling in after Gus Bradley left for the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach job. It is unclear if Quinn runs his own defense or Peter Carroll's defense, but he has done a masterful job improving what was already one of the best defenses in the league. He has plenty of experience working with the defensive line and has had success developing young talent.

Former Jets HC Rex Ryan

You should really know about Rex Ryan by now. He never had a competent general manager or quarterback, but had consistently put together a quality defense. There have been plenty of reports linked Ryan to the Falcons, with Arthur Blank previously coming away impressed with him in interviews during the last head coach search. If Ryan could find a decent offensive coordinator, he could put together a potentially dangerous team in Atlanta.

Cardinals DC Todd Bowles

Bowles surprisingly came up empty as head coaching positions filled up last year, as the former player and one time Miami Dolphins interim head coach has produced a truly impressive Arizona Cardinals defense. He runs an aggressive, creative and blitz-heavy defense that has gotten great results.

Bowles is sort of the anti-Smitty. That is probably why the Falcons requested permission to interview him.

Bowles would be a qualified head coach that would also provide the Falcons with their first African American head coach hiring. His Cardinals defense suffered multiple major injuries but remained one of the best in the league. At the same time, he has gotten great seasons out of some pretty mediocre veterans, something that rarely happens in Atlanta.

At the very least, Bowles would make team far less conservative, inside and out.

Patriots OC Josh McDaniels

The Falcons surprisingly had some reported interest in Josh McDaniels, a man that has struggled outside of New England. While his offensive mind has some very real upside, and he may prove to be a innovative play caller and developing quarterbacks, the current Patriots offensive coordinator was run out of Denver after clashing with players and front office alike.

McDaniels seems to have worked on his social skills since that time and could develop an offense significantly better than Atlanta has seen in recent years. He has coordinated many different types of offenses, frequently fitting his scheme with his current personnel. Like Rex Ryan, the 38 year-old not seem to have much understanding about the other side of the ball, resulting in his Nolan-esque .393 win percentage as a head coach.

Lions DC Teryl Austin

Austin is a surprising name on the list, as he has limited pro experience and has spent only one year coordinating an offense. However, he was linked to the Atlanta Falcons because he has completely turned around the Detroit Lions defense in only one season, despite the roster remaining essentially the same as 2013. It may be early for him to get realistic head coaching consideration, but he was finally the defensive coordinator to turn the Lions defense into what it should be.

Mike Nolan

Keith Armstrong

Realistically, the only coach on the staff deserving serious consideration for the head coach spot. While I could talk about how much I like Armstrong as a coach, I could just link to the greatest speech in Hard Knocks history. Special teams coordinators rarely move up to head coach, but if anyone is worth the shot, if would be Armstrong.

David Shaw

Shaw took over the Stanford football program after Jim Harbaugh left for the 49ers head coaching job, with the former college wide receiver and position coach for the Raiders and Ravens bringing the college program to even more wins. Only 42, Shaw maintains that he will not make the leap to the NFL. That has not stopped NFL teams from expressing their interest and Shaw could be the latest college head coach to make the move to the pros when the right opportunity (and money) come along.

If he interviews, Shaw has proven he can maintain an entire organization and would be more polished overall than the likes of an Austin or Quinn. He has learned under Harbaugh but is reportedly not a huge jerk.

Lets just call that everyone

If there is anyone we missed here, put them down in the comments. The Falcons have a lot of problems, but I would like a creative, aggressive leader to help change this team. Any change in how the team is managed would feel like an improvement.