Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith had an incredible first year with the team as he led them to an 11-5 record and received the NFL Coach of the Year Award. His work ethic and determination were an example to the rest of the coaching staff and to the players as the Falcons made a quick turnaround from the wretched 2007 season.
Ten Questions for Mike Smith
1. In 2008, you walked into a tough situation, taking over a coaching job that many said nobody wanted. What was the biggest challenge for you as you assumed that role for the first time with a team as bad as the Falcons were in 2007?
2. Last year, Matt Ryan surprised a lot of people with his maturity, leadership, and physical skills as he took home Rookie of the Year award honors. What steps are you looking for him to take in 2009 as he continues his personal development into a franchise quarterback?
3. Michael Turner turned out to be one of the big stories in the NFL with his breakout year in 2008 as a starter with the Falcons. His play exceeded the expectations of people, as he rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
What were your realistic expectations for him last year and what are you looking for out of him in the future?
4. The addition of Tony Gonzalez has a lot of fans in Atlanta very excited. What does he bring to the team both on and off the field, and how will the offense change with him as a part of it?
5. The Falcons have made some big changes on defense this offseason with Keith Brooking leaving and the addition of Mike Peterson. The team has also drafted seven defensive players. How will the team improve in 2009 from those additions and what particular unit will change the most from 2008?
6. The big additions for the Falcons through the draft are defensive end Peria Jerry, safety William Moore, and cornerback Christopher Owens. Who in this group is ready to contribute in 2009 and what do they bring to the team?
7. While as a coach I am sure you have a lot of confidence in your team and their ability to perform. What one part of the team are you most concerned about or working the hardest to improve?
8. One of the areas that the Falcons need improvement on is their pass defense as they ranked 21st in yards allowed. As if it wasn’t tough enough to face division foes Jake Delhomme and Drew Brees, this year the Falcons get to see Tom Brady, Jake Cutler, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, and Donovan McNabb.
How has the pass defense improved from last year, and how will the team hold up against the quality quarterbacks they have to face?
9. Looking at the schedule, the Falcons have a much harder road ahead of them in comparison to last year’s schedule. What games this year jump out to you either as challenges, interesting matchups, or just a game that you are looking forward to?
10. Last year, the NFC South had more wins as a division than any other in the NFL. As you look around in this very tough division, what team do you view as the biggest obstacle in the Falcons hunt for an NFC South title?