And then there were four.
With the Raiders, 49ers, and Jets jobs open, add Atlanta to the mix. The Falcons have announced that coach Mike Smith has been released from his contract.
“Smitty’s contributions to our club, team and city over the last seven years are numerous,” owner Arthur Blank said in a release. “His accomplishments on the field made him the most successful coach in the 49-year history of the Falcons, and we are grateful for the foundation he has laid for us for the future.”
Before Smith arrived, the Falcons had never had consecutive winning seasons. Under Smith, they had five in a row.
But postseason failures, including a blowout loss at home while the No. 1 seed in 2010 and an inability to hold leads as the No. 1 seed in 2012, surely made it hard for Blank to remain supportive after two straight losing seasons.
Also working against Smith is a history of bad decisions, especially when it comes to clock management. This year alone, losses to Detroit and Cleveland were fueled in large part by mismanagement of the clock. With those two losses converted to wins, the Falcons easily would have won the NFC South.
The next question becomes whether Blank will keep G.M. Thomas Dimitroff. The hiring of a search firm to help identify a new coach suggests that Dimitroff has been undermined. But Dimitroff’s ability to find talented players is well documented. With former Patriots V.P. of player personnel and former Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli also in the building, the foundation is in place to build around players like quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.
If Dimitroff is fired, look for other teams to line up to hire him. Which could be the best argument in favor of keeping him.
As to Smith, his five-year run also merits consideration elsewhere. At a minimum, teams should be clamoring to hire him as a defensive coordinator.