"Mike possesses all of the key qualities we were looking for in a head coach," said general manager Thomas Dimitroff, in his first month on the job.
Dimitroff said the 48-year-old Smith, a 26-year NFL coaching veteran, "has strong experience with winning teams, a track record of success, a solid, smart approach to the game, and high character and integrity."
The two sides worked late Wednesday to finalize a contract, and the goal was to introduce Smith as the successor to Bobby Petrino at a Thursday news conference. Contract details were not yet available.
The decision to hire Smith, who was one of seven candidates interviewed by Falcons officials, was first reported on Wednesday morning by Michael Smith of ESPN. Sources close to Smith and to the hiring process subsequently told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli that the Jaguars' coordinator had been formally offered the position.
Before joining coach Jack Del Rio's staff in Jacksonville, Smith was the Baltimore Ravens' defensive line coach for three seasons, 1999-2001. As such he was a part of the Baltimore staff that won Super Bowl XXXV. That staff also included Del Rio, who was the linebackers coach.
Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was with Smith in Jacksonville for four years, says Atlanta made the right choice. "I've played against his defense more than anybody in the world," Leftwich said. "I did it every day in practice for four years. I think he's a great guy for the job.