Another Falcon earned an illustrious season honor with head coach Mike Smith earning the Associated Press’s Coach of the Year award by a single vote over Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano.
Smith received 23.5 votes over Sparano’s 22.5 votes for the honor. Smith helped improve the Falcons from a 4-12 to an 11-5 record this season. Sparano helped the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and AFC East title after a 1-15 season in 2007.
Smith and Sparano shared USA Today’s Coach of the Year honors, both garnering 30 votes, although Smith received one more first place vote than Sparano.
Head coach Mike Smith decided to forgo the three-day mini-camp next week and gave the Falcons team time off until they resume workouts on July 26 for training camp. Players will report on July 25.
ESPN reports that leagues sources have indicated that the Falcons have chosen Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith as the person to become the sixteenth coach in franchise history. Previous reports indicated that the Falcons may have have been willing to wait until after the Super Bowl to make this decision. Smith was considered one of the four finalists for the position as well.
ESPN indicates that the Falcons had narrowed down their choices even further, with Smith coming out on top and Leslie Frazier being considered the second best candidate. Per ESPN, Smith “won over the Falcons with his combination of intelligence, communication and organizational skills, and strong knowledge of personnel. Most important, the team believes Smith to be the most professionally compatible with [Falcons GM Thomas] Dimitroff.”
According to ESPN, the Falcons opted not to wait another week for fear that Steve Spagnuolo would spurn their advances and the new coach’s ability to assemble a staff would be diminished.
The AP reports that the team is currently engaged in contract talks with Smith and that a press conference is possibly set for tomorrow.
UPDATE: The hiring of Smith is now official. The AJC is reporting that Smith is believed to have agreed to a four-year deal worth between $8 and $10 million.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that Falcons new general manager Thomas Dimitroff has narrowed down the coaching search to four candidates. Among them is New York Giants defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo who has yet to interview with the team. Any interview involving Spagnuolo will have to wait until after the Giants season concludes after the Super Bowl on February 3. Filling out of the list are three defensive coordinators that interviewed last week: Rex Ryan, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, Mike Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings. Both Ryan and Smith have interviewed twice for the job, while Frazier sat for his first interview this past Saturday.
Ryan remains hopeful that he receives the Falcons position per the AJC, but in the mean time is considered to be candidates to remain in Baltimore as the defensive coordinator under new coach Jim Harbaugh, and also as a potential candidate to hold the same position in Washington with the Redskins according to NFL.com’s Adam Schefter.
In other coaching-related news, the Miami Dolphins announced Tuesday that Falcons strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus will be joining their staff in the same capacity. Marcus only served one season with the Falcons in the capacity. He is one of several assistants under former head coach Bobby Petrino to successfully find jobs elsewhere.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the Falcons will interview Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday. Reportedly Frazier wowed Bill Parcells in his January 7 interview for the Dolphins head coaching position.
Frazier is coming off his first year as the Vikings defensive coordinator, following two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant to head coach Tony Dungy. He also worked with the team’s defensive backs. Prior to that he worked as defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals (2003-04) and defensive backs coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-02). He served as head coach at Trinity College (now known as Trinity International University), NAIA program, for 9 seasons. That was his first coaching job in 1988. He also worked as defensive backs coach at Illinois for two years as well (1997-98) following his days at Trinity. Frazier played six years in the NFL for the Chicago Bears, earning a Super Bowl ring in 1985. In 65 career games, he had 20 interceptions and scored twice on punt returns.
Mortensen also reported that Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith interviewed with the Falcons for a second time on Friday.
Michael C. Wright of the Florida Times-Union reports that the Falcons will interview Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith later this week.
Smith, 48, joined the Jaguars in 2003 as their defensive coordinator. Prior to that stint, he was a defensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens for four seasons. His prior coaching experience all came at the collegiate level where he coached at San Diego State (1982-85), Morehead State (1986), and Tennessee Tech (1987-98). Smith played one season at linebacker with the Winnepeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 1982.
Not to be confused, the Falcons have already interviewed a candidate for the GM job from Jacksonville, their director of college socuting Gene Smith.
Steve Wyche of the AJC also reports that the Falcons conducted an interview of Patriots director of college scouting Tom Dimitroff this past weekend via satellite. Dimitroff has been considered a top candidate for the team’s vacant general manager position.