When Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot took over in 2021, the Falcons were playing both sides of the fence — trying to compete while building toward the future. It netted a 7-10 result.
The following offseason, it was clear the club had to fully commit to the rebuild. The Falcons traded away Matt Ryan and inherited the largest dead cap figure in NFL history at the time. Many expected Atlanta to take a considerable step back with Marcus Mariota at the helm; they didn’t.
Arthur Smith must be commended for his efforts. The first-time head coach matched his first season’s win total with less talent on the roster, outperforming everyone’s expectations.
2023 will be different. The Falcons have the second most cap space in the NFL, sitting around $67 million, to go along with another arsenal of draft picks, including a top 10 selection.
It’s the third year into the regime’s tenure, and nearly every trace of the former regime has been removed. Smith and Fontenot have laid the cultural foundation; now, it’s time for better results.
“Terry and Arthur have a plan, which they articulated to me when they were hired. They are working their plan and are on pace with their plan,” Arthur Blank said, via Josh Kendall of The Athletic. “Now, if we went two more years at 7-10, I would say that really wasn’t the plan. These first two years, this was very much the plan. Win as many games as we can, but we have to change out the roster.”
It’s clear by Blank’s words that he expects the Falcons to improve after back-to-back 7-10 seasons, and it’s the resources available that are prompting this heightened expectation.
Fontenot and Smith “have full resources now,” Blank said. “I think the foundation is laid and I would expect us to become increasingly competitive this year over what we’ve been.”
So, what number of wins would mark a successful season? 8? 9? 10? Or, would winning the division and hosting a playoff game regardless of the win total be enough? Don’t ask the Falcons because they measure progress differently.
“If we put numbers on things, we could lose sight of what’s really important,” Fontenot said.
Despite many believing the Falcons head coach could be on the hot seat if things don’t go well this year, it couldn’t be further from the truth. We are talking about an owner that doesn’t make major decisions like firing a coach lightly; after all, Blank waited too long with Dan Quinn. Fans and media might consider Smith’s seat warm, but it’s not.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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