After ending a third consecutive season at 7-10, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank decides to part ways with third year coach Arthur Smith. At the start of his tenure with the Falcons in 2021, fans were hopeful that the former Tennessee Titans coordinator could bring back a consistent super bowl contending team back to Atlanta but could only produce a consistent sub .500 team.
When asked about why Blank decided to pull the trigger on smith the owner said “The fact we ended up where we did after we had a schedule that was really to our favor, I think generally most people would say we drafted well over three years, our free agency particularly this last year would get very high grades. The gap between achieving and underachieving was much bigger than I anticipated this year.”
Smith’s job was still his to lose at the end of the 2023 regular season as Atlanta still had a chance to make the playoffs but following a 48-17 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, many fans were calling for the coach’s job.
Many point to the fact that the underusage of his young star players as a major reason for him losing his job. 2022 eighth overall pick Drake London has still yet to hit 1000 yards and place 41st in the NFL in catches despite showing his freak athleticism on multiple plays throughout his two years in the league.
Rookie running back Bijan Robison also underperformed from preseason expectations as many experts had the 21 year old winning Rookie of the Year and leading the league in rushing yards. Robinson still showed his talents to the world as he had 1,454 total yards and eight touchdowns but the lack of touches had many fans questioning Smith’s play calling ability.
Kyle Pitts had the biggest drop off out of the three. Pitts hasn’t reached a 1,000 yard season since his rookie year and has just six career touchdowns despite being considered a generational talent at his position.
Not all the blame has been placed on Arthur Smith and it shouldn’t be either. The lack of quarterback play has also played a big role in why these players haven’t had the season some think they should. There have been a total of four different starting quarterbacks in the Smith era being a 36 year old Matt Ryan, Marcus Mariotta, Desmond Ridder, and Taylor Heinicke. When asked about his take on the firing of Smith, former quarterback Matt Ryan said “And frankly the quarterback position for the Falcons this past season didn’t live up to its part. Didn’t carry its weight, and ultimately, Arthur Blank felt like they needed to go in a different direction to find a head coach and a staff, and with that 8th pick to find some stability at that position.”
The future is bright for Atlanta all things considered. They’re are multiple head coaching candidates that can help the Falcons get over the hump and make the playoffs. An upcoming quarterback heavy draft paired with a well built roster, there is reason to believe Atlanta could make a run to win a relatively weak NFC south in 2024.