Falcons: Could Arthur Smith be on the hot seat after 2023?

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2023 is the first season under the new regime where there are real expectations for the Falcons.

After back to back 7-10 campaigns, in which Arthur Smith’s rosters were handicapped by a strained salary cap due to former leadership’s missteps, Atlanta is now out from underneath the mountain of dead money with a clean slate.

Realistically, this is the first season where we can actually judge Smith and Terry Fontenot. They upgraded the roster without financial limitations, adding a ton of depth across the defensive line and to that side of the ball in general. The club also added Bijan Robinson to an already loaded offensive skill group along with a second-rounder in Matthew Bergeron to one of the better offensive lines.

Arthur Blank is very aware of the checks that were written.

“This is the third year of a three-year plan, and I think what I see and what I like a lot is coach (Arthur) Smith and (general manager) Terry Fontenot laid out a very careful, thoughtful, kind of methodical plan of what they were going to do,” Blank said Tuesday. “I think we’re moving in the right direction. This year I expect our team to be even more competitive, if you will, with the emphasis on the defensive side of the ball during free agency. … I think we have as many offensive tools as probably most if any team in the NFL today. We’ve got a lot of talent. Obviously, (an) experienced offensive line that performed at a high level last year. … I like where we are.”

The clock has officially begun ticking on these Falcons, including head coach Arthur Smith. This got me thinking; what kind of job security does he have? Arthur Blank is never one to be a knee-jerk reaction owner. He’ll give Smith plenty of time to prove himself, but it’s now year 3 of a 3-year plan, and there needs to be results. It’s time to produce.

“I think they got us in a position now where our team is gonna be more competitive than it’s been the last couple years. I think they’d be disappointed if that wasn’t the case, I’d be disappointed, our fans would be disappointed,” Blank said. “So I feel good about the direction of where we are. You have to play, you’ve got to avoid injuries and all that kind of stuff. But we’re in a division that is going to be competitive. Everybody says, well it’s one of the weakest divisions. But 22 years owning a team in the NFL, you realize that divisions that start out apparently not so strong end up, by the end of the year, being very strong. There’s gonna be a lot of competition, but I feel good about where we are.”

Well, Mr. Blank, it is the weakest division in football, and I have a feeling it will be that way at the end of the 2023 campaign. With the best roster of his tenure and the worst field in the NFC South, Arthur Smith needs to win more games than he has in the last two years, which would likely mean a playoff berth. The club’s owner is certainly expecting more than seven wins.

“I expect us to certainly win more games than we’ve won the last couple years, and where that puts us and what number that’ll be, I’m not sure.”

So, what if the Falcons supremely disappoint? Let me paint the picture. Somehow, someway Atlanta wins seven or fewer games in 2023. Is Arthur Smith’s seat officially warm in 2024? Arthur Blank and Falcons fans are expecting improvement, and probably an end to the postseason drought.

If Smith puts up another seven-win season, he will absolutely have, at the very least, a lukewarm seat. 2024 could then be a make-or-break season for the first-time head coach. A lot of his job security is tied to Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick. He’s been given the reins with a playoff-caliber supporting cast. Only time will tell if he’s capable; everyone around Flowery Branch seems to think he’s the next franchise quarterback. Smith’s job could depend on it.

Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire

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