Terry Fontenot is just 40 years old, and the parameter of The Athletic’s NFL 40 under 40 list is to be younger than 40 before Aug. 1, 2021, or else I would assume he’d be included under the executive criteria. However, Arthur Smith is just 39 years old and was one of four head coaches included in this year’s crop of up-and-coming coaches and executives.
They are the rising stars in football.
They're the young league power brokers you should get to know this season.
Here is The Athletic's NFL 40 under 40.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) August 16, 2021
“Smith is one of two first-time head coaches on our list. He was largely anonymous during his coaching rise, but became one of the hottest names in the NFL after his stellar work as the Titans’ offensive coordinator the past two seasons. He revived Ryan Tannehill’s career and quickly developed a reputation as one of the NFL’s best in-game play-callers. Now he’ll get to work with Matt Ryan in Atlanta and build an offense around Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts — and not Julio Jones. Falcons fans who are curious about Smith’s play-calling philosophy and style should read this story from The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, who watched film with Smith to pull back the curtain on his offensive philosophy.”
Smith is given some high praise for a head coach who has yet to win a regular-season game. Understandably so, the staff at The Athletic is likely enamored with his ability to effectively utilize the bevy of weapons at Ryan Tannehill’s disposal. The Falcons have a similarly impressive set of skill players, so I see the optimism; however, it is a bit rich to put him in the same category as two proven coaches in Sean McVay and Kevin Stefanski.
Smith has done nearly everything the right way through his first offseason and training camp, but coaches don’t keep their jobs by succeeding in the offseason, even if that is where it begins. Coaches winning in the regular and post-season is what cements their legacies. Soon enough we will find out the kind of head coach Arthur Smith is when his feet get close to the fire in September against the Eagles.