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Atlanta Falcons: GM believes team has leadership to turn around quickly

Falcons GM believes team has leadership for

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith argues a call in the first half against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The Falcons collapse from a 13-3 season in 2012 to 4-12 in 2013 was one of the worst since the AFL-NFL merger. (Reuters)

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith argues a call in the first half against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The Falcons collapse from a 13-3 season in 2012 to 4-12 in 2013 was one of the worst since the AFL-NFL merger. (Reuters)

The dust has started to settle on the Atlanta Falcons’ disappointing 2013 season.

The Falcons went from 13-3 to 4-12 in one season. It was one of the worst collapses of the post AFL-NFL merger era.

Since the NFL started seeding teams for the playoffs in 1975, there have been 98 No. 1 seeds and only three — the 2003 Raiders, 2005 Eagles and 20013 Falcons — has returned the following to season to finish in last place in their division.

After reaching the NFC Championship Game in the 2012 season, the Falcons finished tied with Tampa Bay (4-12) for last place in the NFC South this season. They will pick sixth overall in the NFL Draft in May.

“Obviously, we are disappointed with a 4-12 season,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We had very high expectations from a management standpoint as well. There are a lot of changes to be made and adjustments to be made and considered.”

The Falcons were already plotting a return to at least playoff status. They had a winning record in each of the five previous seasons and reached the playoffs in four.

“This is also a function of acquisitions, changes and rosters, talent and depth,” Dimitroff said. “It’s something that we’re going to analyze at all levels. We are truly going to pare it back and peel back, whatever we need to be incredibly honest with ourselves as far as our approach as far as the decisions that I made and we made as an organization to move on from players or acquire certain players.

“We believe that we have a talented football team here and that we need to make adjustments. We will talk about those as well, but I really truly believe that we have the nucleus, the coach and the leadership to turn this around quickly.”

The Falcons did finish with 11 players on injured reserve and lost the service of key players including wide receiver Roddy White, running back Steven Jackson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for long stretches of the season.

But the Falcons didn’t want to lean on the injuries crutch.

“We faced a number of challenges as a football team and a coaching staff this year,” head coach Mike Smith said. “It’s very obvious that we’re nowhere near the expectations that we had as a team and as organization. The responsibility for that solely goes on me. We did not have the type of season that we wanted and we’re going to do everything in our power to work towards fixing that in 2014 as we recalibrate our organization.”

That process started as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan received a two-year contract extension and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton were fired after the season.

“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage in most football games,” Smith said. “I thought that was a factor. Again, we’re going to continue to evaluate everything from top to bottom.”

Smith was happy to retain Nolan.

“All three of our coordinators are under contract for next season,” Smith said. “They are very good football coaches and I’m glad that we have them under contract and will have the opportunity to work with them in the 2014 season.

“We’ve got to do a better job as a coaching staff. Ultimately, that’s how we’re judged and that’s how the head coach in judges. I take full responsibility for the record this season.”