Entering the Falcons Week 15 contest against the Panthers, it was believed that Arthur Smith’s job was safe.
It was noted that the notion barred a late-season collapse. Smith’s offense proceeded to put up just seven points against a lifeless, coachless Carolina club that eventually won the game on a walk-off field goal.
Nobody was quite sure what a “late-season collapse” entailed but losing to the 1-12 Panthers had to fit the billing in some capacity. It’s the kind of loss that causes heads to roll, and the speculation of Smith’s job security was rampant.
Eventually, in an already scheduled interview, Arthur Blank answered those questions, voicing his support of Smith and refused to add to the speculation.
When asked about the future of his head coach, Blank said, “We’re gonna play these last three games; we play ’em to win ’em. And we’ll let the season play out and go from there. Obviously this has not been the kind of year we expected.”
That stance didn’t change after a convincing victory over the Colts. “We have two more games to go. Let’s see what happens. Like I said last week, we’ll play these last two and we’ll go from there,” Blank said, via The Athletic.
It’s quite possible that Smith saved his job on Sunday as the Falcons put up a season-high 29 points and 406 yards of total offense as Taylor Heinicke didn’t commit a turnover. It’s the kind of performance that makes this season so frustrating because the potential is there, and it seems Smith and Terry Fontenot will have the opportunity to realize that potential in 2024.
According to Albert Breer, Arthur Blank is trending toward giving Smith and Fontenot another year.
“The Falcons are the enigma,” Breer writes. “They’ve hit on draft picks. They’ve hit on free agents. They’ve built strength along the lines of scrimmage and sure look like a rising young team in a lot of ways. But the plan to tread water at quarterback has not gone the way Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot drew it up, which led to Taylor Heinicke’s reinsertion into the lineup Sunday.
And, yet, in a weird way, Heinicke being back in there showed where the ceiling for this team is, how the group is still ascending, and why Arthur Blank is trending toward giving Smith and Fontenot another year”.
There are still two games to go, and as we’ve seen before, these feelings can change after one bad Sunday. The Falcons still have a chance to make the postseason but will need some help. As I’ve always felt, it was unlikely for Blank to fire Smith because the quarterback has been the biggest issue in the team’s shortcomings.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire