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Before he was calling plays for Atlanta’s opportunistic defense, Richard Smith held the post of Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator during the 2005 season.
Smith was a part of Nick Saban’s coaching staff in Miami during the first of two seasons that the cantankerous despot that is Nick Saban spent roaming the Fins’ sideline before he took his current place in Tuscaloosa as an Alabama demi-god.
While 2005 was Smith’s only season leading the Fins defense, the unit flashed greatness – totaling 49 sacks that season, good for second-best in the league.
What made that sack total number even more impressive was the fact that the Dolphins’ starting defensive line had an average age of 32 years.
Still, Smith led a defensive group that featured a group of players that are etched and weaved throughout recent Dolphins lore.
Zach Thomas, Sam Madison and Jason Taylor all started for Smith in 2005.
Fans will also remember that 2005 was the year that Taylor racked up team-best 12 sacks that season. They will also recall that 2005 set the table for Taylor’s 2006 breakout season, in which he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Interesting enough, another cog on Smith’s 2005 Miami Dolphins defense was a 22-year-old rookie out of Florida named Channing Crowder.
Crowder played his entire career with the Dolphins, beginning in 2005 – Smith’s first year with team – and ending in 2010. Now working with Miami Sports Radio 560 WQAM on the Hochman, Crowder & Krantz (HCK) Show, Crowder shared his fondest memory of being coached by Smith.
“In Nick Saban’s first year, he brought Will Muschamp with him from LSU. When the rookies first got there we thought Muschamp was the [defensive coordinator]. Turns out he was like the assistant DB coach or something.”
Quick note, Muschamp was actually listed as the Dolphins’ assistant head coach and a defensive assistant.
“[Muschamp] did all the talking. But when the vets came in and training camp started, Muschamp would go up there and tell us our defense; Saban would go up there and say whatever he thought the main pieces of the defense was, and Richard Smith was the ‘yell man’.”
“Saban and Muschamp would get up there and tell us ‘8-man box, everybody fit your gaps’, talking to us like human beings. Smith would get up and say exactly what they said, but beat on the wall and scream while he did it. He would say the exact same thing they just told us, but he would yell and scream…this went on for the entire year.”
“All he did for weeks was break down the run game and beat on the board. We knew every Wednesday when we got there, Saban would give us the defense; Muschamp would break it down and tell us what’s going on; and ‘yell man’ would get up there and start beating on the wall – screaming and yelling.”
“Richard Smith is a name that everyone knows…he’s been in the NFL for [a long time], but in Miami, he had no pull or no power – he was the ‘yell man’. He was my [defensive coordinator] for 12 months and all I saw out of him was that he was the ‘yell man’…that he could scream and yell.”
After Smith left Miami, he made stops in Houston (2006-2008 as defensive coordinator); Carolina (2009-2010 as linebackers’ coach) and Denver (2011-2014 as linebackers’ coach).
He was tabbed to be Atlanta’s defensive coordinator before the start of the 2015 season, working under Dan Quinn.
Quinn was familiar with Smith as the two had worked together – you guessed it – in Miami during 2005. Quinn was Smith’s defensive line coach in 2005.
Quinn stuck around with the Dolphins for the following season, after Smith had moved on to be the Texans’ defensive coordinator.
Come Sunday, Smith – and Quinn by extension – will have the daunting task of slowing down New England’s Tom Brady-led methodical offense in Super Bowl LI.
And if you listen close enough, you might be able to hear the ‘yell man’, yelling at the Falcons defense this coming Sunday.