Over the last few weeks, speculation has run rampant around Arthur Smith’s job security, and nobody really seems to know what’s going on in the mind of Arthur Blank. Nearly every report has been conflicting, but just ahead of Sunday’s season finale against the Saints, perhaps the most trusted men in the industry, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, are saying that a win against the Saints will go a long way in Arthur Smith keeping his job for at least one more year.
“A win over the Saints on Sunday, plus a Buccaneers loss to the Panthers, would put Atlanta into the playoffs for the first time in six years.
But a loss would drop Atlanta to 1-4 over its final five games of the regular season and ensure a third straight seven-win season, heightening scrutiny on the progress of the football operation at a time when there could be big-name coaches — including Patriots legend Bill Belichick, whose name has come up frequently in connection with Atlanta in conversations with league sources the past week — potentially becoming available.
Prior to Blank’s comments, the Falcons had lost by a score of 9-7 to the basement-dwelling Panthers. Atlanta rebounded to beat the Colts, 29-10, on Christmas Eve, then were blown out 37-17 by the Bears last week in bad weather in Chicago. A strong finish on Sunday, even if it doesn’t lead to a playoff spot, would show the team is headed in the right direction, and that’s said to be important to Blank as he weighs his options.”
Going 2-0 against the Falcons biggest rivals in the Saints — which hasn’t happened since 2016 — would be just about the only positive moment in the three-year tenure of Arthur Smith. The 2023-2024 season has been torturous for everybody involved.
Smith’s offense has failed to live up to expectations. The once devastating Falcons rushing attack has regressed significantly, and the passing game has shown no improvement. More importantly, Smith’s inability to get his three top 10 draft picks involved is the sign of an offensive coach that just might be overthinking things a bit.
The only aspect that has been consistent about the Falcons this season is that they are the most inconsistent team in the league. At times, they look like a serious playoff contender. Other weeks, they look like they should be competing for the #1 draft pick. It’s why this decision can’t possibly hinge on this final game. Even if the Falcons do somehow squeak out a road victory in New Orleans, it would be fool’s gold. If there was another game next Sunday, they’d find themselves in a dogfight with the Carolina Panthers.
Despite drastic improvements across the roster, the Falcons haven’t been any better than they have been in the previous two seasons. There’s even an argument that they have been worse. If Blank wants to keep Arthur Smith around to avoid another regime change and see what he can do with a competent quarterback, that’s an understandable decision. But what happens on Sunday shouldn’t matter.
There are 16 weeks of evidence suggesting there have been no improvements this season. One game against a team in as much turmoil is not going to change that.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire