Richard Smith was far from a big name hire when he was hired back in February, but Smith and head coach Dan Quinn go way back. They originally met when working with the 49ers organization. Quinn was a young mind at the time, but Smith always recognized him for his hard work. They created a bond in San Francisco and later coached together again when Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2005. Quinn is coming off running one of the best defenses in NFL history the past two seasons, so many believe he will be making all the calls this season on defense. Quinn will definitely have his say, but Smith was brought in for a reason. Quinn has great respect for Smith, and Smith will be making most of the defensive coaching decisions, so what should Falcons fans expect from Smith?
Smith brings with him 25 years of collegiate and professional coaching experience. He has spent a quarter of a century focused on the defensive side of the ball. He has spent the last six seasons as a linebackers coach. Smith’s specialty is linebackers, and he will help the current Falcons linebackers improve vastly. He has developed numerous pro-bowl linebackers in his career going all the way back to his time with the 49ers, where he groomed four pro-bowl linebackers from 1997-2002. In the time he spent as the linebackers coach for the Panthers from 2009-2010, Smith helped develop Jon Beason into one of the most feared linebackers in the game. He also helped younger players like Thomas Davis take the next step in their respective games. His most recent coaching gig was the last 4 seasons he spent as the linebackers coach for the Denver Broncos. The Denver defense has been terrific the last four seasons ranking 3rd in rushing defense, 7th in total defense, and 4th in total points allowed.
The part Falcons fans should be most excited about is his recent development of young linebackers. In his time with Denver, Smith took Von Miller under his wing. Miller is a youngster with a very outgoing personality. He also happens to be one of the most talented pass rushers in the game. Smith is much more uptight, but the two were able to work together brilliantly. Smith was constantly on Miller for everything from sack dances to being late for a meeting. Smith always expected the best from Miller on and off the field and the results showed. Miller has 49 sacks in his four seasons in the NFL, and has been one of the most prolific pass rushers in the game. It will be interesting to see what Smith can do for the Falcons 1st round pick Vic Beasley. Beasley is another all-around athlete that uses his speed and strength, like Miller, to get to the quarterback. Beasley has the ability to be great in the NFL, and Richard Smith could be the coach to help groom him.
Smith’s last defensive coordinator position was with the Texans from 2006-2008. His results were not great, as the Texans never finished in the top 20 in total defense during his three-year tenure. But Smith did show his unique ability to groom young linebackers, coaching both DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams to pro-bowls. He also showed more of his personality. He constantly compared his defense and his players to rocks. He does it to show how a defense is supposed to be tight-knit and strong like a rock. Smith is another no nonsense kind of defensive mind. He wants his defense to play as one, swarm to the football, and hit hard. Quinn and Smith have a strong relationship, and while Quinn will have a lot to say with what goes on, Smith will be the guy leading this defense.