In four seasons under head coach Mike Smith, the Atlanta Falcons are 43-21, they've won an NFC South title and, in total, have made three trips to the postseason. The Falcons are 0-3 in those playoff appearances, however, and Smith knows that playoff success will ultimately define his tenure with the team.
"I think ultimately we are both going to be judged on success in the postseason," Smith said on Wednesday via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There have been a lot of teams and a lot of players that have broken through and gotten that first win. That's why we are doing everything in our power to figure out how to get that done.
"The expectations are very high in Atlanta, so there are going to be people talking about it. We just have to keep our heads down, keep preparing and doing the things that we've done. We know that we're doing it the right way. We just have to figure out how to play better at the end of the season."
The Falcons' postseason struggles hit a low point in January when they managed just two points in a playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Smith's coaching staff underwent an overhaul, with Mike Nolan brought in to replace Brian VanGorder at defensive coordinator and Dirk Koetter replacing offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Though the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints are coming off a tumultuous offseason, Smith doesn't necessarily think that the Falcons, who finished in second place in the NFC South last season, vault to the top of a division loaded with talented quarterbacks.
"I don't necessarily believe that," Smith said. "I know that the NFC South has been one the most competitive divisions for a number of years. Most certainly before I got to the Falcons, there was the worst-to-first story for three or four years. It's very competitive."