As the Atlanta Falcons sit back and relax on their couches as the NFL playoffs begin, one thing looms in the distance: who's going to be their next head coach? Multiple names have been attached to interview for the job, but the one that stands out the most is New York Jets' former head coach, Rex Ryan.
Rex Ryan and former Falcons' head coach Mike Smith are polar opposites. Ryan is a loud, tough-minded, passionate coach who wears his heart on his sleeve and Smitty...well he isn't any of those things except, maybe passionate. Ryan is the head coach the Falcons need right now, and probably the one they deserve.
Some problems during Smith's tenure include the Falcon's continuous defensive struggles, his lack of emotion, bad decision making and most of all clock management. Atlanta could have beaten both Detroit and Cleveland this season had Smith managed the clock better. In the loss against Detroit, Smith lobbied to run a screen pass (that Julio Jones dropped) instead of running the ball to shorten the amount of time Detroit would have to score in a game the Falcons were winning late in the fourth quarter. A game they inevitably lost.
The storyline that followed the Falcons throughout the off-season this year, one that was ironically conveyed heavily on HBO's "Hard Knocks" was the Falcons being labeled "soft". In the offseason Smith tried his best to make his team tough and give them an edge, but it was to no avail. After six years of being a finesse team, it would have been a miracle to see them turn it around under Smith after just one off-season.
Teams generally take on the identity of their coach, and with Ryan the Falcons' identity can take a turn for the better. Despite all the memes the infamous signal callers under Ryan - Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez - have spawned, you've never heard anyone call his team soft.
Since taking the job as head coach in 2009, Ryan's defenses have ranked first, third, fifth, eighth, 11th and sixth in yards allowed according to pro-football-reference.com. In that same timespan under Smith, the Falcons have ranked 21st, 16th, 12th, 24th, 27th and 32nd.
At various times throughout Smith's tenure as head coach,which lasted seven years, fans have clamored to sports radio talk shows and social media for Smith's lack of emotion. Fans won't have that problem with Ryan. Ryan will boast and brag on the (currently) terrible defense of the Falcons and he'll go to bat for his guys. And the wonders he could do with the Falcons talented secondary after they get a pass rush would be everything the Falcons need to be successful.
Ryan has never had the benefit of working with a team as talented offensively as the Falcons, but he'll get them back to doing what championship teams do best, running the ball and playing defense. Matt Ryan is at his best when he has a good running game, just look at the Michael Turner years. Rex can give Matt something he's never had to play with in a defense that can hold a lead and potentially win a game or two for the Falcons when the offense doesn't have it going.
Obviously, Ryan isn't the end-all be-all and it won't be an easy fix. The team still needs help on the offensive and defensive lines, but Rex is the right guy to get this house in order and when it is in order the Falcons could find themselves making deep playoff runs.