Monday December 29th, 2014

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team was not distracted by leaks that he hired a search firm to find a new coach before Sunday's season-ending loss to the Carolina Panthers, Pro Football Talk reports.

The Falcons fired coach Mike Smith on Monday and owner Arthur Blank had to spend some time at the press conference defending his role in the decision.

Blank said he had not talked to any candidates or agents about the job, despite leaks to the contrary before the Falcons’ 34-3 loss at home Sunday to the Carolina Panthers in the de facto NFC South title game.

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A win would have put Atlanta into the playoffs as the division champs, despite a losing record. Instead, Atlanta finished 6-10—its second straight season with double-digit defeats—and Smith is now the team’s former coach.

According to Pro Football Talk, Blank said similar reports weren’t a problem for the team the previous week when the Falcons “beat the crap out of the Saints.”

“Smitty could not have had stronger support than from me,” Blank said of the weeks prior to his decision.

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Smith was hired by the Falcons in 2008 and impressively led the team back from a difficult 2012 season, when Atlanta was 4-12 after Michael Vick was imprisoned for his role in a dog fighting ring and Bobby Petrino jumped ship to return to the college ranks after coaching the team for 13 games.

Smith led the Falcons to a 66-46 regular-season record in seven seasons and took them to the NFC Championship in 2012, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. In four playoff appearances under Smith, Atlanta was just 1-4.

The Falcons were just 10-22 the last two seasons.

Phil Watson

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