In Arthur Smith’s first two seasons as head coach, the Falcons roster didn’t give him much of a chance to win. The expensive contracts handed to older players by the previous regime caught up to the team, as they set records for dead cap. The fact that Smith was even able to squeeze out seven wins each season was an impressive feat.
This offseason, however, all of that changed. The Falcons were armed with the second most cap space of any team, and they brought in a slew of talent as well as handed out extensions to some of their own. This is now a roster capable of making the playoffs, especially in a putrid division like the NFL South.
Despite that, the Falcons sit in the exact same spot that they did a year ago; 4-4 after eight weeks with more questions than answers.
Who should be the starting quarterback moving forward?
Desmond Ridder has shown some progress as a passer, but he still is making way too many rookie mistakes, turning the ball over at an alarming rate and failing to go through his progressions quickly enough, leading to way too many sacks. Meanwhile, Taylor Heinicke relieved Ridder in the second half of the Titans game and showed glimpses of what this offense could look like with an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Now, Arthur Smith has a conundrum on his hands. The cat is out of the bag. Heinicke clearly gives the Falcons the best chance to win right now, but moving on from Ridder would essentially be giving up on him ever becoming the future of the position in Atlanta. That’s a terrible look for a coach who has made it evident that Ridder is his guy.
Moreover, the Falcons have seemingly less of an identity than they did a year ago. They used to be a smash mouth offense that could run the ball at will. That hasn’t been the case this year with Ridder under center, which is even more discouraging when considering the addition of 8th overall pick Bijan Robinson.
The Falcons have somehow managed to make Bijan Robinson, one of the most electrifying athletes in the entire league, boring to watch. He’s yet to become the workhorse that many expected him to be as a rookie, bringing me to my next point.
The Falcons have drafted three straight skill position players in the top ten picks of the draft, yet none of them seem to be utilized correctly. Arthur Smith has continuously brought up fantasy football when answering questions about their lack of usage. If the team were winning, perhaps that would resonate better with the media. But they aren’t; if anything, the Falcons offense has regressed in year three of Arthur Smith’s tenure.
Simply put, Smith’s schtick is beginning to grow old. The results are not there, and his unwillingness to address the multiple elephants in the room isn’t going to be tolerated for much longer if the team keeps heading down this path of mediocrity. Changes must be made and questions have to be answered, or what’s left of the fan base that is still behind him will dissipate. He may not think that matters, but it could eventually be what ends his tenure in Atlanta as head coach.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire