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NFL.com: 'Maybe [the Atlanta Falcons] is the gig Nick Saban jumps at'

Saban seems set at Alabama for the time being, but the Falcons might be smart to seek someone similar to him. Maybe someone like the coach at Florida State.

Kevin C. Cox

Odds are good that Mike Smith will not be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons much longer. He's one of the two best coaches in franchise history, along with one-time NFC champion Dan Reeves, and should be remembered fondly. But the 2-5 returns in 2014 suggest with fervor that the flaws Smith's teams showed in last year's 4-12 run and even at their 13-3 heights were not flukes.

I say all that to say that NFL.com's Adam Schein delivers this in a fair-minded column on the temperature of Smith's seat:

Maybe this is the job that attracts the next big-name college coach. Maybe this is the gig Nick Saban jumps at, with his ties to front-office folks in Atlanta. Maybe it's the next hot NFL assistant, or the currently-out-of-work coach with a Super Bowl ring.

The four-time BCS champion has already tried the NFL thing, going 15-17 with the Miami Dolphins in between his championship run at LSU and his current championship run at Alabama. (But if those Dolphins had landed Drew Brees... ) And he just signed an NFL-grade contract to stay with the Tide after Texas rumors, putting him at $7 million in salary annually, just shy of Sean Payton's deal. And he's said he doesn't want to go back to the NFL and that he's too old at 62 to start over elsewhere, for what that's worth.

That connection to the Falcons includes general manager Thomas Dimitroff's especially high opinion of Saban, a fellow member of the Bill Belichick tree. When Dimitroff decided to trade for Alabama's Julio Jones in 2011, he was taking a player Saban had praised well beyond usual Saban levels and declining to follow Belichick's personal advice not to spend so many draft picks. Dimitroff also picked a Saban lineman, guard Mike Johnson, in 2010.

So if Dimitroff were in full charge of the process, you could imagine Saban's agent getting a call. (Saban's agent gets a lot of calls, some of which make both him and Saban richer.) But owner Arthur Blank will also be involved, especially with Dimitroff's own performance in question after a "Hard Knocks"-publicized GET TOUGHER offseason campaign that appears to have gained no ground. And if Blank wants a tough coach who'd sell tickets in the Southeast and has won almost everywhere he's been, he'd also think about Saban.

Is Nick Saban likely to leave Alabama? No. He has a chance over the next few years to go down as the greatest Crimson Tide coach ever, which is about the highest acclaim a football coach could ever reach. He's got the country's most blue-chip-loaded roster for years to come. And, like he says, he's already tried the NFL.

But Saban is an example of a kind of coach that the Falcons, a team in a college-first market, would be wise to consider. Ideally, a younger one who hasn't already tried the NFL and would be more suited to the Falcons roster's biggest strength.

Since we're just thinking out loud here, Florida State's 49-year-old Jimbo Fisher is both a former Saban coordinator and a pro-style offensive mind who could do terrible things to defenses with Matt Ryan and Jones at his disposal, for example.