To say that expectations are high for the Atlanta Falcons this year would be an understatement. Various media outlets, fans, players and coaches all believe that this is the year. This is the year the Falcons have their best shot at winning the Super Bowl so far during the Thomas Dimitroff/Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era.
Since starting this run of becoming a perennial contender in 2008, the Falcons are 56-24 during the regular season, but are just 1-4 in the postseason. This has frustrated many a Falcons fan over the years as it just seemed like the Falcons were great during the regular season, but could never take that step forward in the playoffs.
That changed last year when the Falcons won their first playoff game since the 2004-2005 season. This lifted a lot of pressure off of Smith, Dimitroff and Ryan as they finally proved that they had what it took to win in the playoffs.
Expectations in Atlanta have shifted a lot since Smith became head coach. Before 2008, the Falcons never had consecutive winning seasons. Smith has never had a losing season since becoming the head coach of Atlanta. Now the expectations have gone from being a consistent regular season team, to winning a playoff game, to now winning the Super Bowl.
Still, that doesn't mean that many fans and media outlets have questioned whether or not Smith can truly succeed as a postseason coach.
Thomas Dimitroff was interviewed by ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd on Friday and was asked if the Falcons had another postseason blunder and lost in the first round of the playoffs this year, would Dimitroff make a change at head coach?
No. …Again Mike Smith is a fantastic coach. I mean the guy has won coach of the year three years out of five. I mean that's almost unparalleled. And he has a real handle of what we're doing with this organization. He has the upmost respect from me as a general manager.
So even if those expectations are not met, according to Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith's job is safe. Smith has been one of the key architects of rescuing this franchise from arguably its darkest year in 2007 during the wake of the Michael Vick dog fighting saga. Some thought it would be years before Atlanta would become a contender again. Smith turned this team around in 2008 with an 11-5 record, just one year after the depressing 2007 season. Smith has made the Falcons into a consistent contender, which is something that the franchise, nor the city, could have ever said before.
Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff and Matt Ryan have created these lofty expectations that we all now place on the Atlanta Falcons. Without them, this franchise may have fallen into oblivion and never recovered. This team, despite its flaws, has four very good people at its most important positions. Owner Arthur Blank, GM Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan.
While some have called for Dimitroff's and Smith's head over the years, remember why their respective heads has been called for. It's because they've taken this inconsistent and mostly losing franchise and turned it into a winner. Success creates expectations, and when those ultimate (Super Bowl) expectations aren't met, it's hard for a fan base to accept. But to have realistic dreams of a Super Bowl, a team must first have success.
That's not to say the Falcons shouldn't deliver on those expectations at some point. Their regular season success is not an excuse for their mostly bad postseason play. But let's remember why those expectations began, and why they continue to grow. Now after becoming a consistent regular season team and winning a playoff game, there's really only one expectation left. The expectation of winning Atlanta's first Super Bowl championship.
If the Falcons don't win big in the postseason, do you want Mike Smith gone? Or are you willing to give him another shot?
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