The Falcons are in the infancy stages of the rebuild, despite Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot refuting that notion. And it’s honorable. These are grown men who have reached the pinnacle of their sport; they’re ultra-competitive and don’t comprehend the concept of tanking. Even if they won’t win many games, they’re certainly not trying to lose any.
Moreover, the goal for a team like the Falcons at this point in the rebuild should be to instill a positive and sustainable culture. Atlanta remained competitive last season despite having an abysmal point differential. They were even in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season. Sure, nobody would confuse the Falcons with a postseason contender, but the foundation is being laid.
“You need results in some way, shape or form to have that buy-in,” Arthur Smith told Albert Breer. “You can’t just be selling hope. And I think last year, certainly, we didn’t get to where we wanted to, we weren’t playing in the postseason. But we were in it until just about the very end, all the way until Buffalo in early January, so the team did start to see results, they saw the mindset shift, they understand what style we want to play in all three phases. There was definitely progress made.”
For the Falcons, the most important thing is to continue building on the previous day brick by brick until there are tangible results — i.e., playoff berths. Atlanta needs veterans willing to sacrifice winning for something bigger, which is definitely a tall ask for some of these guys. The Falcons want the more experienced players to share wisdom with the younger players, so there’s a system that is self-sufficient — a consistent competitive culture.
“The leadership started to emerge that we’re excited about, with Jake, [Chris] Lindstrom on the offensive side, and defensively, [A.J.] Terrell coming into his own, and Grady being as consistent as they come,” Smith told Breer. “Really those guys … they’re guys you believe in. They’re all different stages. But especially with the guys up front, with what we’re looking to establish on both sides, that’s there.”
The Falcons have to prove the organization has closed the chapter of the former regime, and a new one is open. For these players, seeing the systems working could mean the difference between landing a highly sought-after free agent and scraping the bottom of the barrel as they have the past two offseasons.
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