Blank: 'Difficult decision' made as Falcons fire Smith

Blank: 'Difficult decision' made as Falcons fire Smith

ATLANTA (WTVM) – The Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Mike Smith on Monday, following a 6-10 regular season and a 34-3 defeat at home by the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

ESPN was the first to announce the move on


Smith was 66-46 in seven seasons as a first-time head coach. During his tenure, the Falcons won two NFC South division champions, had back-to-back winning season for the first time in franchise history, and a NFC Championship appearance. After five winning seasons, however, the last two were not so good with the Falcons going 4-12 in 2013 and this season's 6-10 record.

Prior to joining the Falcons in 2008, he was the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars under Jack Del Rio and a member of the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff that won Super Bowl XXXV. He had never been a head coach before joining the Falcons as their 14th coach in team history.

"Smitty's contributions to our club, team and city over the last seven years are numerous,"

. "His accomplishments on the field made him the most successful coach in the 49-year history of the Falcons, and we are grateful for the foundation he has laid for us for the future."

Prior to Sunday's home finale, a loss to the Carolina Panthers for the division crown, ESPN

the the Falcons had hired

to begin finding potential head coaching candidates in case a change was made.

"I'm not in the blame game," Blank said at Monday's press conference. "I think the results are a combination of a variety of things. If the bus stops with me it certainly stops with me as the owner of the franchise. So I take responsibility. It's my job to have the right head coach and coaching staff. General manager, general manager staff and football operation staff."


on Monday, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who was hired with Smith in 2008, said that the decision was made despite past successes in their first five years together.

"We're very proud of what we've done over the five years. The two years, obviously, have not been what we've wanted. I take a great deal of responsibility for what happens with this organization and the team building that has taken place," Dimitroff said. "We also know that I have made mistakes, and I know that I am going to be scrutinized for it. I know that I have over the last months looked at every different aspect of our football operations as far as what needs to be adjusted as far as myself and my approach to things as well. I am responsible as much as Smitty is for this organization and the success of this organization and the downfall of this organization."

Blank said that franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, whose play was criticized all season,e specially following Sunday's game, would not be involved in the search for a new head coach.

Smith wasn't the only NFL coaching casualty on Monday; the New York Jets fired Rex Ryan and their general manager John Idzik, and the Chicago Bears fired their head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery.

The San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh also mutually parted ways on Sunday. Harbaugh, sources say,

, with the announcement reportedly coming Tuesday.

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