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Falcons, Jaguars to coach 2014 game

Posted Jan 2, 2014

Mike Smith, Falcons staff to guide North; Gus Bradley, Jags to coach South

MOBILE, Ala. (Jan 2) – The coaching staffs of the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars have been selected by the NFL to coach the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl the week of January 20-25 in Mobile, Ala.

“We are so happy to have the Falcons and Jaguars as the two NFL coaching staffs this year,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage.  “We could not be more pleased. These organizations will do an amazing job in Mobile."

The Falcons, who will coach the North team, are just one year removed from a 13-3 record and appearance in the NFC Championship game. However, they struggled in 2013 with injuries and slipped to a 4-12 record. It was Atlanta head coach Mike Smith’s first losing season in six years with the Falcons, compiling a60-36 (.625) record and winning a pair of division titles during that span.

Despite being in the NFL for 15 years, he has never coached at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

"We have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at the Senior Bowl over the last six years, but this is the first time we will have the chance to coach the game,” Smith said. “The week of practice provides a great opportunity to get to know these players on a personal level, but being able to coach these young men will give us the ability to work hands on with them and evaluate them. We look forward to coaching the 2014 Senior Bowl."

“Mike Smith and I worked together with the Baltimore Ravens and he is a tremendous coach and person,” Savage said.

In 2012, the Falcons became the first NFC team to earn the conference’s top seed twice in three seasons (2010 and 2012) since the Philadelphia Eagles posted the NFC’s best record in three straight seasons from 2002-04. For his efforts, Smith was named the Sporting News Coach of the Year three times (2008, 2010 and2012).

Smith’s 56 wins in his first five seasons were the most by any Falcons head coach in team history and the second-most among any first-time head coach in NFL history.

Smith, 54, will coach against his former team, Jacksonville, where he served as defensive coordinator from 2003-2007.

The Jaguars (4-12) are led by first-year head coach Gus Bradley, who helped the team overcome an 0-8 start in 2013 by winning fourof its remaining eight games. Bradley has 24 years of coaching experience, including eight seasons in the NFL.

“I visited the Jaguars in August and everyone there raves about Gus Bradley and what he represents as their head coach,” Savage said.

Bradley previously coached in the Senior Bowl in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he served as the linebackers coach under head coach Jon Gruden.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity as a coaching staff to spend the week in Mobile and coach the Senior Bowl,” said Bradley, who will guide the South team. “It’s a great opportunity to be around these players in a competitive environment and see how they work throughout the week.  It’s a great evaluation tool. It’s maybe better for us as coaches instead of sitting in our rooms watching tape over and over again.  We will be able to evaluate all aspects of their game and we expect it to be a very productive week.”  

Before taking over in Jacksonville, Bradley, 47, spent four seasons (2009-12) with the Seattle Seahawks as defensive coordinator and played an important role in the club advancing to the postseason twice. The Seahawks posted an 11-5 mark in 2012, the fourth-best in franchise history, and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.

Bradley developed the Seattle defense into one of the NFL’s top units during his tenure.  The Seahawks ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense (319.2 yards per game) since 2011, third in points per game (17.5), fifth in takeaways (62), first in opponents passer rating (73.2) and fifth in interceptions (40).

Savage is not only excited to get the two coaching staffs in Mobile, but each organization’s personnel staffs, too.

"I have known both GM's of these two teams for years,” Savage said. “I have great respect for Thomas Dimitroff and what he has accomplished in Atlanta and David Caldwell is already putting his signature on the Jaguars as they turn things around in Jacksonville."

The Reese’s Senior Bowl game is January 25, 2014 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Practices and the game are televised live on NFL Network.

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