Every Monday, AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams will sit down with Falcons head coach Mike Smith for five questions you won't find answers to anywhere else.
Jay Adams: Last night when you left the stadium, when you got on the bus, when you got on the plane, what were you thinking about? What was going through your head?
Mike Smith: The first thing I do when I leave the stadium is I look at the play-by-play on the bus ride to the airport and try to re-enact some of the snaps and some of the plays that took place. Then, I get an opportunity when I get on the plane to watch the tapes and then I watch the tape again after that. Disappointed in our performance. It's not the standards that we have. We have certain standards that we want to make sure that we attain, and we didn't play as well as we needed to and it was reinforced when we watched the tape. When I say we didn't play as well, I'm talking not just the offense, defense, special teams — I'm including the coaching staff, as well. We're all in this together.
JA: When things start to go badly on the field, what is the process to make the necessary changes and adjustments?
MS: The first thing that you have to do is you have to try to make adjustments in terms of what they're presenting on the field. That's first and foremost, to make sure we take a good look at the Polaroids and see how they are trying to attack us. Really, that's the only way that you can is through the viewing of the Polaroids. Getting with the players and getting things firmed up — a lot of the information that we get is from the players because they're out there actually playing. Then, you have to be able to improvise and adjust with your game plan. It changes — 'We're gonna be able to do this because they're doing that. They're doing this? We've gotta do that. — and we go back-and-forth. The one thing that I thought yesterday was that our guys kept their composure. We had some opportunities. We fought back from 21-0 to 21-10, and we just didn't have an opportunity to get any closer than that.
JA: You've spoken at length about the defensive line rotation and how that affects who's starting. I wanted to give you an opportunity to further clear up how some fans might see Corey Peters listed at third string on the Tuesday depth chart and then see him starting come Sunday.
MS: Really, it depends on who's going to play against certain personnel groupings, and it's based on what personnel group the offense presents, and we don't have any control over that. If it's a certain package because they're going to be in a certain set, we're going to have a certain defensive tackle out there for that first play of the game. Again, it's hard to pinpoint who's going to be the starter because we don't know what personnel grouping the offense is going to present to us, and we really think we've got basically eight starters on the defensive line.
JA: When we talk to players on Wednesdays, we've noticed a theme that seems to come up. Players always answer certain questions by saying they're waiting for the game plan from the coaching staff. It seems like there's a lot of trust there in what you are doing with your staff. Is that how a football team is supposed to work?
MS: Yes, and I think it's not just exclusively the coaches that have input on the game plan. We put together the framework of the game plan on Monday and Tuesday and then it's presented to the players on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Of course, there's always changes, and some of the changes that take place in the game plan are based on input from the players. We want our players to have input in what we're trying to do so that they can have ownership in it, so it is a group effort in terms of not just the coaches that put the game plan together. There's a lot of input from our players in terms of things that they feel comfortable with, and I think — when you do that — you have ownership by everybody on the team.
JA: Looking to this weekend, we're playing a couple of receivers who are known as much off the field as they are on it in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. When you face players like them, do you say anything different to the team so that they don't listen to what either might say this week?
MS: Jay, we tell our players that every week in terms of, we have to focus on what we see on that coaches' tape in terms of what they do. Play your game based off of what you're going to see on the tape — based on spilts, based on formations. This week's preparation will be no different than any others and we try to tell our guys, to the best of their abilities each and every week, that you're not really listening to the noise that goes on around the game; you're focusing on your job.