The Falcons and Head Coach Mike Smith shocked the NFL last season. Picked by many pre-season pundits to only win two or three games, the Dirty Birds went 11-5 and earned a spot in the playoffs.
While rookie QB Matt Ryan got most of the of publicity, rookie Head Coach Smith was equally responsible for the team's success.
This guide will shine the light on the men that don't make highlight reels, but are crucial to the Falcons' winning ways.
Coach Smith and all of his coordinators are back this season.
The Falcons are the only team in the NFC South to bring back the entire front line coaching staff.
In fact, only seven NFL teams kept their front line staff together this off-season (Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Bears, Vikings, Redskins, Steelers).
Coach Smith was named Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year in his first year as Falcons head coach.
The award is even more impressive considering that last season was Smith's first year as a Head Coach at any level.
Before coaching the Falcons, Smith was the Defensive Coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 to 2007. Smith's Jacksonville unit regularly finished the season ranked in the top ten in the NFL.
He got the job in Jacksonville after shining as a position coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Smith helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2000.
The son of two former educators will turn 50 in less than a month (June 13). Smith's relatively young age helps him connect with his players.
His background helps too.
He has a real ability to actually teach his players his scheme and not just draw plays on a white board. He counts his parents' teaching experience as a big part of the reason for his success.
Coach Smith is not only a good teacher, he has a remarkable work ethic. His former boss, Jaguars' Head Coach Jack Del Rio, says "Nobody works harder".
Smith used that work ethic to move from a string of small college football programs to the bright lights of the NFL. If he keeps up the good work, the Falcons should be in great hands for several years to come.
Assistant Head Coach Emmitt Thomas is an important part of the Falcons' staff. Coach Thomas has been with the Falcons since 2002.
He served as interim head coach in 2007 after Bobby Petrino deserted the team mid-season. He was considered for the Head Coaching position before Mike Smith was hired.
Thomas is in charge of the secondary as well as being the Assistant Head Coach. This makes sense, as Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year as a defensive back.
Thomas starred at cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs and still ranks in the top 10 for career NFL interceptions with 58.
This will be Thomas' 29th season as a coach in the NFL. He served as a Defensive Coordinator and coached for the Cardinals, Redskins, Eagles, Packers, and Vikings before landing in Atlanta.
Coach Thomas is not the only member of the staff that played in the NFL. Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey played tight end for nine seasons before turning to coaching.
Mularkey also has head coaching experience, having lead the Buffalo Bills in 2004 and 2005. He has also worked as an Offensive Coordinator for the Steelers and Dolphins.
Mularkey is known for his smashmouth style. His philosophy is to be the most physical, punishing offense possible.
This meshes well with Head Coach Smith's goal of building from the inside-out on both sides of the ball.
Mularkey is not one dimensional however, and his penchant for using trick plays and gimmicks has earned him the nickname "Inspector Gadget".
The Falcons finished second in the league in rushing, and averaged 24.4 points per game in Mularkey's first season in Atlanta.
Brian VanGorder is the Defensive Coordinator. VanGorder is already well known in some parts of Georgia, having been the Head Coach at Georgia Southern in 2006.
VanGorder also has ties to the University of Georgia where he was Defensive Coordinator from 2001 to 2004.
VanGorder is the loudest coach on the field at Flowery Branch, and brings toughness to the defense. He started with the Falcons as Linebackers Coach, before Mike Smith was hired.
Smith promoted him to Defensive Coordinator. The two coaches worked together previously in Jacksonville.
The Falcons' defense ranked 24th in the league in total yards allowed last year; but stiffened in the red zone and finished 11th in total points allowed.
This year, the defense hopes to improve as VanGorder and Smith continue to put their stamp on the unit.
The Special Teams are lead by Keith Armstrong. Coach Armstrong is a 15-year NFL coaching veteran. This is his second tour of duty in Atlanta.
His first job in the NFL was as the Falcons' Safeties Coach back in 1994. He was the Special Teams Coordinator in Miami and Chicago before coming back to work for the Falcons.
Armstrong is particularly known for his work with punt coverage teams. His Miami units allowed an average of 6.1 yards per return over his 6 years, and lead the league in that category in 2001.
Last year with the Falcons was even better, as his unit set the record for the fewest punt return yards allowed in an NFL season with 49.
It takes more than just coordinators to build a championship caliber football team.
The following men are less heralded, but just as important to the Falcons' game day success. They are the position coaches.
Bill Musgrave is the Quarterbacks Coach. He has been with the Falcons since 2006.
The former NFL back-up has made a name for himself tutoring young signal callers.
Musgrave has coached for the Redskins, the Jaguars, the Eagles, the Panthers, the Raiders and the University of Virginia.
Paul Boudreau is the Offensive Line Coach. Boudreau was brought to Atlanta by Mike Smith at the start of last season.
The line played well last year under Boudreau, paving the way for Michael Turner's 1,699 rushing yards. The line also held opponents to just 17 sacks, which was 5th best in the league, and allowed Matt Ryan to blossom.
The Falcons are Boudreau's 8th NFL team.
Gerald Brown is the Falcons' Running Backs Coach. Last year was Brown's first season coaching in the NFL. It can only be termed a success as RB Michael Turner managed the most touchdowns in team history (17).
Turner also posted the third best yardage total in Falcons history.
Before moving to Atlanta, Brown coached at the college level, most recently at Indiana University.
Terry Robiskie is the Falcons' Wide Receivers Coach. Robiskie has coached in the NFL since 1982. He has held almost every offensive coaching position imaginable.
Robiskie has not only served as a Offensive Coordinator for a number of years, he has also served two stints as an Interim Head Coach.
Robiskie had a undistinguished playing career in the NFL after starring as a running back at LSU.
Former Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo is in charge of the Tight Ends. Last season was Scelfo's first in the NFL. He has more than 20 years of college experience, including stops at the University of Georgia and Marshall.
Scelfo did not have much to work with in the passing game last year as the offense rarely used the Tight Ends as receivers (they did look good as blockers).
However, with the addition of TE Tony Gonzales, Scelfo should play a more obvious role.
On the defensive side of the ball, Coach Alvin Reynolds is in charge of the secondary. The former standout strong safety at Indiana State University followed Coach Smith to to Atlanta from Jacksonville.
Reynolds has 15 years of NFL coaching experience and worked as an Assistant Head Coach at Indiana State before that.
Glenn Pires is the Falcons' Linebackers Coach. He has 15 years of NFL experience. Pires worked in Miami, Detroit, and Arizona before coming to Atlanta.
The New England native was a star athlete in high school before playing QB at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
He coached at Michigan State and Syracuse before getting his shot in the NFL.
Last but not least, Ray Hamilton is the Defensive Line Coach. Hamilton is another coach that worked under Coach Smith in Jacksonville and followed him to Atlanta.
Hamilton was a mainstay on the New England Patriots' defensive line during the 1970's and is still ranked 5th on that franchise's all time sack list.
Hamilton has more than 20 years of NFL coaching experience with 9 different teams.