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: I hear from fans all the time that these close games are nearly heart attack-inducing. As a coach, do you ever feel that sense of drama and anticipation on a sideline during a close game?
Mike Smith: Well, it's very emotional, Jay, on the sideline. I think that the biggest emotion that you feel is just not knowing what the outcome is going to be. You know that you're prepared and that you're prepared as a team, but they have prepared as well, so it's the unknown that you're sitting there, waiting to find out what's going to happen. I don't feel like I'm going to have a heart attack by any stretch, but we have made it a little too close for comfort for my liking.
JA: Speaking of emotions, we see you and the fans see you at news conferences and you're a very mild-mannered personality. On the sideline, you have this fire about you. Where do you get that? It seems like it's innate in a lot of coaches.
MS: I love competition of the game, and I think that, Monday through Saturday as a coach and as a player, you've got to be focused on your preparation and not the emotional and try to be as even-keeled as possible. Then, on gameday, especially from the opening kickoff to that last horn, you've got to be passionate about what you're doing. I think our players are very passionate and they have a very good understanding that it is a passionate and emotional game.
JA: Did we see against San Francisco how important it is to not look at a team's record?
MS: Without a doubt. As I said going in, I don't think you can put any stock in a team's record in the first five or six games of the season. It comes into focus a little bit when you get to around the midpoint of the season. San Francisco was a very, very good football team that played some very tough games, and very easily their record could be completely reversed.
JA: You've talked a lot about this toughness, this inability to give up among the team. Are you ever impressed by the ability of this team to respond?
MS: I think it speaks volumes of the makeup of our team. It is about the players in our locker room in terms of them understanding that, regardless of what happens on one play, you've got to go play with the same attitude and the same effort. I think that's what they have a very good understanding of, and they believe in that. They know that you've got to put the previous play behind you and just go on to the next one and just keep battling, because in the National Football League, there are going to be some very, very tight games.
JA: I know you're constantly evaluating, but when it comes to young guys like Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, Peria Jerry and William Moore, do you assess where they're at after the quarter mark of the season?
MS: We're assessing every week, but really, we break the season up into quarters, so we take a little larger view from the first four games. What we anticipate seeing, we've seen. We've seen guys that have improved each week. That's what you have to have with the young guys on your football team is you have to have, from Week 1 to Week 2, they get better. From Week 2 to 3, they get better. You just have to continue to make sure that they're progressing and the arrow is going up.