Prior to the club’s contest in Chicago on Sunday, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero at NFL Network reported that Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot are likely safe.
If Atlanta finishes with solid performances in its final two games, Smith should be in good standing heading into Year 4. If it’s a freefall, the Falcons’ 81-year-old owner may have a different view.
Like Smith, general manager Terry Fontenot, who has spearheaded the massive roster and cap overhaul, appears to be on stable ground as of now.
Following another terrible performance, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post took his turn, suggesting all signs point to Arthur Blank firing Arthur Smith this offseason.
Anything short of a firing would be shocking. Owner Arthur Blank isn’t a big fan of the work being done by Coach Arthur Smith, and plenty of people around Blank at the most recent league meetings came away thinking a coaching search was imminent. Smith’s series of painful losses since then haven’t helped, nor has the revolving door at quarterback.
I’d take anything La Canfora reported with a grain of salt. He’s been notorious among the community for misreporting, but he does have sources. A pair of GMs believe Arthur Smith’s fate has already been sealed.
“I don’t care what anybody writes, Arthur Smith isn’t safe,” the first GM said. “He’s there for one more week.” The other GM said: “They can’t sell tickets, man. They have all these first-round picks on offense and they can’t score. He has to make a change. You can’t sell Arthur Smith anymore.”
Shortly after, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN shared his feelings that Smith was safe, at least that’s what people around the league believe, adding that Blank doesn’t “want” to make a move, but how the season plays out could impact that attitude.
I’ve spoken with some people around the league who think Arthur Smith is safe, or at least Atlanta doesn’t want to make a move — though finishing the season losing four of the last five would not be ideal, and the fan base appears on edge. Smith has never had the quarterback in Atlanta, and giving him a fourth year to secure the right one might be the prudent move
Then, Mike Garafolo said that Arthur Smith is on the shakiest of grounds.
On the latest episode of #TheNFLReport @mikegarafolo gave @wyche89 and I some insight into the job security of the head coaches in the NFC South. "I believe Arthur Smith is on the shakiest of grounds."
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 3, 2024
It’s back and forth, back and forth around the league. The Falcons find themselves engulfed in speculation, but that’s all it seems to be. These are sentiments, other than La Canfora getting quotes from GMs.
The reality is that only Arthur Blank knows, and I’d wager that a win or loss this Sunday won’t change his mind. If I had to guess, the Falcons owner will give Smith another season to prove himself.
Blank has never been one to jump the gun; in fact, it’s been the opposite since he bought the franchise. He’s hung on too long. Moreover, nobody can deny the poor quarterback play that Arthur Smith has dealt with.
Granted, he hand picked Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, and Taylor Heinicke, but how could anyone confuse them with a competent quarterback? I believe the position is the single biggest factor in Atlanta’s shortcomings this year.
No, Smith isn’t free of blame. He should hire a pass game coordinator and delegate some personnel decisions to Terry Fontenot if he hasn’t already. With that being said, there are only a few offensive head coaches that could make Ridder look like a franchise quarterback.
I’d understand Blank’s decision either way because Smith has fallen short of expectations, especially with the offense. Underutilizing three top 10 draft picks and an inconsistent scoring output is unacceptable for a guy who was hired for his offensive acumen.
Those are just my feelings, though. You know what they say about opinions, and one Falcons beat writer seems convinced Arthur Smith will be ousted this offseason.
“Now, it seems like the Falcons must make the playoffs and go on a run. Perhaps nothing short of a trip to the NFC Championship game likely would save Smith,” D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
D Led is not reporting anything, but he’s as close to the situation as anyone. Obviously, a playoff berth seems unlikely and a trip to the conference championship game is next to impossible, which would cost Arthur Smith his job, according to D Led’s thinking.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire