The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Three and Out Coaching

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There's not a wide variety to choose from here. I can tell you which relatively new coach (not named Kiffin) is racing towards Linehan Lane - and that's Detroit's Rod Marinelli. He won three games in 2006 and upped it to seven wins in '07. The Lions will not be following that sequence to 11 wins in '08. He'll probably settle for about 4-12 in his final season if he lasts that long.

As for the actual rookie head coaches -- I love John Harbaugh. The guy comes from a pure football background, and quite simply put, he just looks the part. Harbaugh will be in Baltimore for years to come.

So long as Bill Parcells decides to stay in Miami and the Dolphins throw an occasional beat down of New England every once in a while, there's no reason to think Tony Sparano won't hang around long enough to compete for a wild card in a couple years. And no messing with Jim Zorn after his team just went into Dallas and won. Hands off.

I guess this brings me to Mike Smith in Atlanta. The name doesn't really jump out at you, does it? His demeanor doesn't really give off the youthful spark of a Mike Tomlin, or the no-nonsense "now that's a football coach" look of an Andy Reid. I don't mind Smith, but he doesn't create that certain buzz sometimes needed during transition periods. Atlanta's had a real tough go of it in the Michael Vick aftermath. The Bobby Petrino era that followed wasn't particularly pretty either, though at least it was more humane. Arthur Blank and the Falcons organization are not an envied bunch - but in football as in life, the only people you can depend on is yourself and the ones closest to you. So I hope Smith succeeds, because that franchise deserves better that the fate its endured since coming one game short of the Super Bowl in 2004.

I don't think Smith will be fired this season regardless of the final record which you'd expect to be somewhere around 5-11. Maybe not even after the '09 campaign. But like Linehan, and like Marinelli if my hunch is correct, if the Falcons are not showing the expected progression in Matt Ryan's third season, Smith may very well return to his more familiar role of coordinator.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  September 30, 2008; 10:21 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sparano In Jeopardy | Next: Smith Needs to Win, Or Else

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