<
>

Smith comes from 'Hard Knocks' school

I shared my thoughts with you Wednesday on why the Atlanta Falcons could be a good fit on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer.

That’s when we found out the Falcons were getting strong consideration. Now, there’s an updated report that they’ve been offered to be the team featured on the show throughout training camp and the preseason. So, the ball is in the Falcons’ court, and there likely will be some high-level meetings at their Flowery Branch facility before a final decision is made.

One person that’s likely to have a big voice in all this is coach Mike Smith. Some coaches like to keep their teams out of the spotlight, and I’d generally say Smith falls into that category. He’s a low-key guy without much of an ego. But when you look at Smith’s history -- and the current state of the Falcons -- it’s not difficult to see him embracing the opportunity, and intentionally putting some potential distractions in front of his team.

Back when “Hard Knocks’’ made its debut in 2001, Smith was a low-level defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. He also is the brother-in-law of former Baltimore coach Brian Billick. The Ravens were the first team to be featured on “Hard Knocks’’ and Smith had an up-close view of the thinking that went into the team accepting that role and how the process worked.

The Ravens were coming off their Super Bowl victory. At the start of training camp, Billick was asked about why the Ravens chose to be on “Hard Knocks.’’ Thanks to AFC North colleague Jamison Hensley, who covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun back in those days and was able to dig up the following quote from his archives.

“I can't imagine much that would be thrown at us in terms of a distraction during the season that we would not have already experienced,’’ Billick said. “Very truthfully, training camp is about providing learning experiences, and that's what this is for my players."

Billick wanted his players to be prepared for the spotlight. They didn’t get back to the Super Bowl, but the 2001 Ravens did go 10-6 and won a playoff game before getting eliminated.

Smith has had four winning seasons since taking over the Falcons. But he’s never won a playoff game. Clearly, the Falcons are a team looking to get over the hump.

Smith might follow the lead of his brother-in-law and embrace the spotlight as a way to help his team take the next step.