Since the Falcons made the Super Bowl, every administrative decision was motivated by Arthur Blank’s desire to stay relevant. Eventually, Thomas Dimitroff kicked the can down the road so much via contract restructures the team was in a position where the only logical approach was to tear it all down and rebuild.
Then Blank hired Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith to compete and maximize Matt Ryan‘s twilight years. Fontenot and Smith are clearly ultra-competitive people and had no interest in a rebuild without first trying to see if they could make it work with Ryan, which is exactly what I assume Blank was searching for in these hires.
Now, the Falcons have no choice but to completely rebuild. Their trajectory was always tied to Matt Ryan‘s contract, and with it off the books, the Falcons will once again look to construct a competent roster as they did back in 2008 following Bobby Petrino’s exit.
The Falcons will incur a record-setting dead cap figure from the Ryan trade, which will handicap them in 2022. Atlanta seemingly found their starter in Marcus Mariota, who is, by all means, a decent quarterback in this league. What’s so terrible about the signing is that Mariota is just good enough to win five-six games, which will take the Falcons out of contention for the star quarterback prospects of the 2023 draft class.
The Falcons are in full rebuild mode, and there’s no way around it. If leadership could self-reflect for even a moment, they’d realize that and do all they can to maximize their future. Those actions could include trading Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett, while simultaneously playing the maximum number of rookies to guarantee a chance at drafting Bryce Young or CJ Stroud and self scout their young players.
Thinking realistically, no NFL team is going to tank — outside of the Stephen Ross’ Dolphins. Blank, Fontenot, and Smith aren’t going to purposefully lose games. The culture losing creates is cancer, so there’s an argument to be had that “tanking” does more harm than good.
There is no blueprint for what the Falcons are about to go through. Obviously, the most important position in all of sports is quarterback, and the new regime won’t ever be considered successful unless they get that right. Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett, among other quarterback prospects, are in the cards for the Falcons in this year’s draft, which would give this rebuild a sense of direction, at the very least.
The Falcons deserve to be in this situation, and though there are plenty of warts for this new regime, they were always going to have to undo the salary cap mess the previous regime caused. Now, they’ll have their guys at their price; there won’t be any excuses.
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