There are those that are still astounded by one simple fact about the Atlanta Falcons that stood for a very long time. Until the 2009 season, the Falcons never had back-to-back winning seasons. It took 15 head coaches to lead the franchise before current head coach Mike Smith took over in 2008 and helped turn the direction of the Falcons 180 degrees.
After Smith's 11-5 rookie season in 2008, he continued to coach and motivate the Falcons in 2009 when, despite significant injury troubles throughout the roster, they managed to finish the season 9-7 and put an end to the dubious achievement.
Four seasons in Smith's tenure and the lack of consecutive winning seasons is a distant memory. The head coach didn't just stop with two straight winning seasons, he stretched the streak out to where it currently stands: four. In the process he has improved his regular season record to 43-21 and wiped away a lesser known fact about the Falcons.
Prior to Smith, a timeframe that spanned 41 years, the Falcons never had a head coach with more than three winning seasons with 10 wins. With Smith sitting at four currently and the future looking bright, the figure continues to rise, easily placing the coach at the top of the list for the franchise's best head coach.
That tag isn't something Smith concerns himself with of course and he'd probably say if he were to be called that, it'd be an honor and would likely be because he'd won a lot of ball games and hopefully a Super Bowl.
Atlanta's struggles in the playoffs have been well-documented, but one thing can't be ignored: a team must be in the playoffs to even have a shot at winning a game in the playoffs. The team in Atlanta is still young and learning and few that follow the league, fans and otherwise, truly believe the Falcons won't turn the corner in the playoffs.
Dan Reeves and Leeman Bennett headline a list of coaches that didn't always fare well in Atlanta. Reeves (49-59-1) took the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance and Bennett's (46-41) six-year run featured three trips to the playoffs, but neither managed to string four winning seasons together nor four consecutive winners or three seasons of 10 wins or more.
Smith has not hid his feelings about winning seasons, sharing more than once that he's not in the business of having winning seasons, but rather Super Bowl championships. On the other hand, he's often said he wants his team to be relevant in December, when wins are at a premium and can put franchises into the playoffs.
While the championship part has eluded him, his teams have consistently been important to the playoff picture every season under his tenure. That's the mark of a good coach and shows everyone that the Falcons could certainly be in far worse positions, something their fans know all too well.