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Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

Falcons tap Jags aide new coach

Jacksonville defensive coordinator Smith to lead Atlanta

January 24, 2008

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— The Atlanta Falcons hired Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith as their new head coach Wednesday night.

"Mike possesses all of the key qualities we were looking for in a head coach," said general manager Thomas Dimitroff, in his first month on the job.

Dimitroff said the 48-year-old Smith, a 26-year NFL coaching veteran, "has strong experience with winning teams, a track record of success, a solid, smart approach to the game and high character and integrity."

Smith, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator since 2003, had his second interview with the Falcons on Friday. He has never been an NFL head coach, but Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was with Smith in Jacksonville for four years, says Atlanta made the right choice.

"I've played against his defense more than anybody in the world," Leftwich said. "I did it every day in practice for four years. I think he's a great guy for the job."

Smith, a former defensive assistant with Baltimore, had the league's No. 12 defense with Jacksonville this season after ranking second in 2006 and sixth in 2005.

Leftwich said Smith would never receive enough credit in Jacksonville because many assumed Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, a former defensive coordinator, was the real mastermind of the defense.

Jaguars defensive end Marcellus Wiley confirmed that opinion when he said on ESPN Wednesday, "Jack Del Rio was the defensive coordinator, and if it wasn't him, it was (linebacker) Mike Peterson."

Wiley said Smith "was just a guy who stood at the front of the room when Jack Del Rio was leading the defense."

Wiley said the Falcons "really went down low on the totem pole."

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