“Decisions like this are never easy and they never feel good,” Blank said in a statement released by the Falcons. “We have profound respect for Coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years. He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations. After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”
The Falcons said the move was made at a meeting Sunday night in Atlanta involving Blank, Smith and Rich McKay, the team’s chief executive officer.
The season ended with Smith directing a profane tirade at Saints Coach Dennis Allen on the field following Sunday’s game. Smith was upset that the Saints had run for a touchdown out of the victory formation in their 48-17 win. Allen issued a public apology to Smith and the Falcons during his postgame news conference, saying Smith had the right to be upset.
The Falcons entered Sunday with a chance to reach the playoffs. They would have won the NFC South, even with an 8-9 record, if they had beaten the Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had lost to the Carolina Panthers. But the Buccaneers beat the Panthers to win the division at 9-8.
Smith — the 41-year-old son of FedEx founder Fred Smith, a former limited partner in Washington’s NFL team — failed to get the Falcons back to the level they reached under his predecessor, Dan Quinn. The Falcons made the Super Bowl under Quinn in the 2016 season but squandered a 28-3 lead to lose to the New England Patriots in overtime, 34-28. The Falcons returned to the playoffs the following season but have not been back since.
Smith did not resolve the Falcons’ quarterback situation after they traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in March 2022 following a failed bid to acquire Deshaun Watson. The Falcons attempted to establish second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder as their starter this season. But Ridder struggled, and backup Taylor Heinicke made four starts in a failed attempt to salvage the season.
The Falcons said the search for Smith’s successor would be led by Blank and McKay and will include “input” from General Manager Terry Fontenot and “several other appropriate members of Blank’s Atlanta Falcons and AMB Sports and Entertainment organizations.”
The Falcons join the Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers in searching for new coaches. Those teams fired their coaches during the season.
Source link Sports – The Washington Post