For the second time since 1999, the Atlanta Falcons have gone from a conference title game appearance to eight losses in the first 10 games of the following season. Over that span, they are the only franchise to suffer that ignominy.
Several sources familiar with the situation tell NFL Media columnist Michael Silver that Smith has been personally assured by owner Arthur Blank that he will return as head coach for the 2014 season. That job security goes for two-time NFL Executive of the Year Thomas Dimitroff as well.
"I do. I absolutely do. They've earned it over the last five years," Blank explained. "This is a tough business ... The guys are proven leaders and proven by success. Their records speak for themselves. They'll do the work that has to be done with my full support."
"If that had happened," the source said, "it would have sent a horrible signal to our fans -- and to our team -- that we were giving up."
Before the Falcons lost Jones, all four losses went down to the game's final possession. Since losing Jones, all four losses have been blowouts.
Smith and Dimitroff will have to oversee major construction projects on the offensive and defensive lines, but they have to be buoyed by the 2014 return of Jones -- and perhaps the addition of a game-changing defensive player such as South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney or UCLA's Anthony Barr.