Former Buccaneer linebacker Mike Smith named head coach of Atlanta Falcons
Thursday, January 24, 2008

ATLANTA, Ga. (Jan. 24, 2008) - Former ETSU linebacker Mike Smith (1977-81) spent the last five seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but on Thursday Smith accepted his first-ever NFL head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons.


"Mike possesses all of the key qualities we were looking for in a head coach," said general manager Thomas Dimitroff, in his first month on the job.


Dimitroff said the 48-year-old Smith, a 26-year coaching veteran, "has strong experience with winning teams, a track record of success, a solid, smart approach to the game, and high character and integrity."


Smith, a two-time defensive MVP, played for ETSU from 1977-81. The powerful linebacker led the Buccaneers with 186 tackles during his senior season (marking the single season ETSU record).


The Falcons selected Smith to replace Bobby Petrino after he decided to leave Atlanta with three games remaining this season. Smith was one of seven candidates interviewed for the vacancy and accepted the position late Wednesday night.


During his tenure with the Jaguars, Smith implemented one of the best defensive systems in the league.  Since 2003, Jacksonville ranked rank 4th in overall defense (296.6), 3rd in offensive points allowed (16.1), 5th in rushing defense (99.3) and have allowed the third fewest rushing touchdowns (37) from 2003-06. After the 2005 campaign, Smith was named to the USA Today All-Joe Team, which is an award that goes to the players and coaches who have overachieved and are often overlooked.


Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was with Smith in Jacksonville for four years, says Atlanta made the right choice.


"I've played against his defense more than anybody in the world," Leftwich said. "I did it every day in practice for four years. I think he's a great guy for the job.


"A lot of people might not know his name, but I've seen the work he puts in every game, how guys were so prepared on Sundays that they knew exactly what teams were going to do."

Prior to joining the Jaguars, Smith spent the previous four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, helping them to their Super Bowl championship in 2000. The Ravens' 2000 defense set an NFL 16-game record by allowing only 165 points. From 1999 to 2001, Smith was the Ravens' defensive assistant/defensive line coach, and in 2002 he was the linebackers coach, replacing Jack Del Rio, who became defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. In 2002, Smith coached All-Pro Ray Lewis and Pro Bowler Peter Boulware, who had his finest NFL season, and he was instrumental in the development of second-year pro Ed Hartwell, who made a team-leading 196 tackles.

Smith had a 12-year stint at Tennessee Tech (1987-98), the last three as the defensive coordinator. He joined the Tennessee Tech staff as defensive line coach, and then served as special teams coordinator from 1988 to '95. He tutored the line for nine seasons before being promoted to defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 1996. With Smith as defensive coordinator, the Golden Eagles' defense finished in the top 10 in the nation in both 1997 and 98. In 1998, Smith was promoted to defensive coordinator/assistant head coach.

Before joining Tennessee Tech, Smith was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Morehead (Ky.) State. He served as a part-time assistant coach at San Diego State in 1982, and then spent the next three seasons (1983-85) coaching the Aztecs' linebackers. It was at San Diego State where he worked with Brian Billick, who brought him to Baltimore in 1999.

After graduating from ETSU, Smith played linebacker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 1982.

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The Associated Press and Jacksonville Jaguars helped contribute to this release.