Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 6/4/13
Will Atlanta's shortcomings come back to haunt Mike Smith? (Credit) The Atlanta Falcons currently sit right on the cusp of finally winning their first Super Bowl and have been for some time. In essence, they have been a contender ever since Matt Ryan threw his first regular season pass in the NFL to Michael Jenkins for a 62-yard touchdown. Since then, they have made the playoffs four of the last five seasons, even managing a winning record in the one miss. They have won two of the last three NFC South titles and led 17-0 in the NFC Championship game against San Francisco back in January. So, it begs the question: what exactly do they have to do with this generation of players down in Georgia to finally break through to the Super Bowl? History within their own division may provide the answer. Back in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been consistent playoff performers for about half a decade and only lost out to "the greatest show on turf" St. Louis Rams in the 1999 NFC Championship game in one of the most controversial calls in NFL history. After that and consecutive postseason losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Glazer family, owners of the Bucs, said enough was enough. Despite putting together the best Buccaneers squad in history, Tony Dungy was shown the door for being too defensive. The next year, they ended up in San Diego with the Vince Lombardi trophy to show off. Now, that is not to say that the Falcons should get rid of Mike Smith with no conceivable plan to replace him, considering that landing upon the right coach was more luck than judgement on the Buccaneers account. What Arthur Blank does have to consider, however, is that outside of truly special franchises, the free agency era gives good teams a limited shelf-life before they regress to the mean -- just ask the San Diego Chargers. Would a change in coaching have more effect than a change in team personnel? In Mike Smith's first two playoff forays, he was involved in shootout defeats to Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers. Instead of accepting that the Falcons might have been beaten by two exceptional quarterbacks and keeping with his coaching style, Smith has become much more conservative while coaching playoff games. In the NFC Championship game mentioned earlier, in which they led 17-0 before losing, they not only threw away the lead, but they also managed to be held scoreless throughout the second half thanks to conservative play calling. Other coaches have been blamed for good teams failing to succeed come playoff time, like Dungy, Norv Turner and any team coached by Marty Schottenheimer. Yet, while the Falcons are labeled as either overrated or chokers, very little blame has gone Smith's way. How many more playoff defeats will it take before somebody blames the head coach? By: Steve Moore Twitter: @Steve_Moore1988 Sign up for our newsletter for daily updates from The Sports Post!

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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