First a quick note on the Falcons, who have apparently decidede to
retain Mike Nolan. I believe this to be good news for Carolina - it's
not that Nolan's a terrible coach, but lack of change is good and
Nolan's not a great fit in Atlanta. Mike Smith hasn't had a top 10
yardage defense in his Atlanta tenure, and only twice in the top 20.
But, it's a team that's excelled in scoring, finishing top 5 twice and
top 15 two more times; its 27th ranking this year seems to suggest it
lives and dies based on its offense.
Tampa fired Greg Schiano, however. They appear ready to clear house
and start over, as much as I was hoping they'd slog on with Schiano and
Mike Glennon another year.
It looks like the leader in the clubhouse is Lovie Smith. That's
intriguing, and a good mix of the type coach that has expectations of
respect and good play that Schiano provided, with a mix of the players
coach that they desperately needed in the uptight atmosphere there.
Stylistically, he's a coach who plays for defense, and obviously the
Tampa 2. That defense tends to be out of vogue, where more than just
technique and talent are critical to win now. Multiple looks, multiple
fronts, and other scheme variations seem to be what's selling now
against rapidly changing NFL offenses. Offensively, Smith went
through various Coryell coaches in his tenure and had an offense better
than 20th once (15, 2006, the year they won the NFC) in yards, and once
in points (2nd, again 2006).
Smith is intriguing due to his network of coaching contacts, but most
of 'his' coaches went on to Dallas with Monte Kiffin, who for the moment
is still in Dallas. If Kiffin were let go, Rod Marinelli becomes an
immediate candidate for DC. I imagine that Smith would enjoy having
both in some form, if Kiffin took on a chief-of-staff or emeritus type
Smith is intriguing, as well, since he entered the league in Tampa
under Tony Dungy and was a hot commodity under him (and alongside Herm
Edwards). A DC stint in St. Louis left Smith as the head coach of the
Bears for 9 years, including a Super Bowl loss.
Smith hired Carolina coach Ron Rivera for his first coordinator job,
but then let him go following a pair of top five defenses. It was a
matter of circumstance, supposedly - Smith wanted one of his Tampa 2
buddies, Marinelli, but couldn't get him. Rivera, meanwhile, was off
doing interview after interview for head coaching jobs and Smith
apparently felt it was a distraction. That's what sent Rivera, unable
to get in on a coordinator job, to be the guy in waiting under Norv
So, that's Tampa. They're not the only team dying for Smith, and even
if they get him I believe him to be a fairly static, non-progressive
coach who can be beaten. But, he was .563 and made the playoffs three
times, so he's not the easiest out, either. You can always hope they'll
pick another random college goober with an attitude problem like Schiano