The Falcons new regime is beginning to catch strays from the entire fan base, and cries for the heads of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith will only get louder if this team continues down its current path.
Coming into the season, Arthur Blank talked about this being the third year of a three-year plan, stating, “I think we are moving in the right direction.”
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) August 1, 2023
A majority of the fan base also felt that way prior to the season.
The Falcons were finally out from under a mountain of dead cap, spending freely in free agency at all three levels of the defense, adding the likes of Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss, Bud Dupree, Jeff Okudah, and Calais Campbell.
Offensively, they spent their top two draft picks on Bijan Robinson and Matthew Bergeron. They also reunited Jonnu Smith with Arthur Smith via trade. With the additions of Robinson and Smith, the Falcons now had one of the most diverse skill position groups at Desmond Ridder‘s disposal. Matthew Bergeron was also expected to solidify an already really good offensive line.
Unfortunately, Ridder hasn’t been able to get the ball to those playmakers, and his turnovers have cost the Falcons opportunities to win games. There has been some progress, but the bad far outweighs the good through the first eight weeks. So much so, that Arthur Smith turned to Taylor Heinicke in the second half of last Sunday’s contest against the Titans.
Now, the Falcons have a legitimate quarterback controversy on their hands. It is evident Heinicke is best suited to help the team win now, but by benching Ridder, the Falcons are admitting defeat on a player they swore was capable of leading this offense.
It’s an issue fans could see coming from a mile away during the offseason, and the most frustrating aspect of the entire situation is this all could have been avoided if Arthur Smith wasn’t hellbent on starting Marcus Mariota for 13 games last season for no good reason. Now, Smith’s stubbornness might cost the Falcons a playoff spot if he goes back to Ridder against the Vikings.
Lost in all of the quarterback controversy, however, is that the entire Falcons offense seems to have lost its identity. A year ago, Arthur Smith led a smash-mouth style of attack. The Falcons finished third in the league in rushing with almost 160 yards per game and averaged 4.9 yards per carry, which ranked fourth.
Through eight games this season, the Falcons are 10th in the league in rushing, averaging 126.3 yards per game, and their 4.2 yards per attempt ranks 16th. That’s an eye-sore when considering the Falcons spent the 8th overall pick on a running back instead of bolstering the defense.
Speaking of the defense, that’s been the one bright spot this year. The Falcons have gone from one of the worst defenses in football to a legitimate top 10 unit. However, they’ve done it on the backs of veterans who are only getting older and many players who won’t even be around past this season. The draft picks on that side of the ball since Terry Fontenot took over have been dismal, and the future of the Falcons defense is just as unclear as the offense.
Arthur Blank has never been one with a quick trigger when it comes to firing coaches and general managers. He typically waits several years too long, but unless something changes this year, I don’t know how he doesn’t look at everything the Falcons have done over the last three years as a colossal failure.
Photo: Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire