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Jaguars assistant tops Falcons' coaching search

Team negotiating with defensive coordinator Smith, source says

POSTED: February 3, 2008 5:04 a.m.

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons have zeroed in on Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith as the team's next coach, a person familiar with the search said today.

The person, who requested anonymity because contract talks between the Falcons and Smith have not been completed, said a news conference could be set for Thursday.

Smith, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator since 2003, had his second interview with the team Friday. He has never been an NFL head coach.

Smith first interviewed with Falcons owner Arthur Blank during the playoffs, after the team hired Thomas Dimitroff as general manager.

Smith, also a former defensive assistant with Baltimore, had the league's No. 12 defense with Jacksonville this season after ranking second in 2006 and sixth in 2005.

ESPN.com, citing league sources, first reported the Falcons were expected to hire Smith.

The Falcons have interviewed several candidates, including assistant coaches Rex Ryan of Baltimore and Leslie Frazier of Minnesota. Two other candidates, Jason Garrett of Dallas and Jim Caldwell of Indianapolis, chose to remain with their current teams. Another Dallas assistant, Tony Sparano, took the Miami Dolphins coaching job under new team personnel director Bill Parcells, who was offered and turned down a similar role with Atlanta.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank also had fleeting discussions with Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll

The Falcons have been searching for a coach since the sudden resignation of Bobby Petrino 13 games into the 2007 season. Petrino left for the coaching vacancy at Arkansas, a key episode in a turbulent season that saw the team plummet to 4-12.

Smith, 48, joined the Jaguars in 2003. Prior to that, he was defensive line coach for the Ravens from 1999-2002.

The Chicago native played linebacker at East Tennessee State University and played pro ball with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in 1982.

His college coaching career took him from San Diego State (1982-85) to Morehead State (1986) and Tennessee Tech (1987-1998).



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