In terms of the hire, I'd be lying to you if I claimed to have a good sense for Smith's merits. Jacksonville usually seems to have a good defense, so that's nice. Whether they have a good defense because of the coordinator or because of two blue chip defensive tackles and a variety of talented high draft picks surrounding them is an open question. As I complained previously in the context of the NFL's decision to bombard the Atlanta market with Jacksonville games, I don't know a single Jags fan, so I'm not sure where to go for guidance. I will say that Jacksonville seemed to take the right defensive approach against New England, so that's something.
The main factor I like about this hire is that Arthur Blank resisted the urge to go for the big name. My biggest criticism of Blank's meddling as the owner is that he has always gone for the splashy hires and player acquisitions. Having seemingly learned his lesson (other than the Pete Carroll flirtation), Blank has hired a quality talent evaluator to be the general manager and an unheralded coach who comes recommended around the league. Len Pasquarelli makes this point well:
In a city where the Falcons have become irrelevant, which is Blank's worst nightmare realized, this is a franchise that needs to win games in order to win back some fans.
Mike Smith knows about winning football games. In five seasons as the Jacksonville coordinator, the Jaguars won 46 games, counting postseason victories. The Falcons have won 55 games this millennium.
Although the group that Jack Del Rio assembled in Jacksonville featured five former NFL or college head coaches, Smith was arguably the staffer most responsible for the franchise's success over the past half-decade...
In hiring the third different head coach during his time as owner, Blank actually got out of the way a little bit, a difficult thing for the spotlight-seeking owner to do. Once he brought Dimitroff aboard, he afforded him considerable input. And why not, since Dimitroff and Smith will confront the daunting task here together. Blank did have his moments of weakness -- not so much in chasing Bill Cowher and Bill Parcells, but more in his flirtation with Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll -- but in the end he deferred to the recommendation of his new general manager.
And given Blank's history and his penchant for sometimes over-reaching for the headline-making candidate, that's not an altogether bad thing.
So we have a general manager and coach in place. The next step is to start obsessing about every little bit of misinformation that comes out in regards to the Falcons' plan for the Draft. Over/under on my overreactions to "the Falcons should take/are interested in Matt Ryan as their 'franchise quarterback'": 429. (A brief digression: is there a more overused term that "franchise quarterback?") I'm not sure if I've been clear about this, but I'm firmly in the "take Jake Long or Glen Dorsey" camp. If neither are available, then take the next best offensive or defensive tackle. There are no quarterbacks in this Draft who merit a top ten selection (with the possible exception of Brian Brohm) and, as the Giants have illustrated, quality running backs can be found later in the Draft, especially this year with so many early entrants at the position. I could also live with the Falcons taking Aqib Talib, although that would be an admission that the Chris Houston pick was a waste. Talib seems a logical fit for New England if they can't trade down and he's on the board.