Falcons pursuing Belichick, Harbaugh, others for Head Coach

Photo by Noah Zeches | The Signal


Following a crushing 48-17 loss to the rival Saints and finishing a third consecutive season with a disappointing 7-10 record, owner Arthur Blank decided to cut ties with head coach Arthur Smith.


The Falcons are now one of eight teams searching for a new head coach going into the offseason. Former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Michigan’s John Harbaugh are among the top candidates for coaching positions with multiple teams, with the Falcons being one of the leading options. Other teams including the Chargers and Seahawks may be more enticing to coaching candidates as they have more stable quarterback situations than Atlanta with veterans Justin Herbert and Geno Smith.

That said, the Falcons are just a QB away, already possessing young stars including rookie RB Bijan Robinson, Pro Bowl G Chris Lindstrom, and All-Pro S Jessie Bates. In all three of Smith’s seasons, he was heavily scrutinized for the way he dealt with the QB position.


In his first season with Atlanta, Smith came onto the team with an aging Matt Ryan in place, who was clearly declining after a 4-12 season the year prior. Despite having a top draft pick, the Falcons chose TE Kyle Pitts with the 4th overall pick, which in hindsight looks terrible considering their inability to get Pitts receptions.

The following season, Matt Ryan was signed to the Colts and the Falcons once again fell into a top ten pick, selecting WR Drake London with the 8th overall pick and later drafted their eventual QB1 Desmond Ridder in the third round. Fans questioned Smith, GM Terry Fontenot, and Owner Arthur Blank for choosing to sign veteran QB Marcus Mariota and the unproven Cincinnati prospect in Ridder. During the 2022 season, the Falcons benched and eventually cut Mariota, allowing Ridder only 4 starts in his rookie season.


Leading into the 2023 season, Falcons fans were torn. Smith and the Falcons had to choose between the still unknown Ridder, drafting a QB–Stroud, Richardson, Levis, or signing a QB in free agency–Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith, Baker Mayfield, Taylor Heinicke. The end result was unsuccessful, as seen in the season’s result (7-10), as the Falcons held onto Ridder while signing Heinicke to back him up.


Now, candidates for the Falcons vacancy may have to make huge strides to bring together a successful QB and passing offense, to pair with an already successful defense and run talent.


“There is no timetable. The only timetable is to do this correctly,” Falcons Owner Arthur Blank wants to take his time with the hiring process but recognized the pressure of trying to get the vacancy filled before the Draft on April 25th.


Beyond the candidates who have already proven themselves (Belichick, Harbaugh, Carroll), there are several coordinating coaches possibly looking to move up and away from their teams: Lions OC Ben Johnson, Bengals OC Brian Callahan, Ravens DC Mike Macdonald, Panthers DC Ejiro Evero, 49ers DC Steve Wilks, and even Raiders interim HC Antonio Pierce.


The Falcons hope to land one of those top, veteran head coaches, with Belichick at the top of the list for his success in New England, but they may have to settle for a first-year coach given their QB situation compiled with the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft and a lack of cap space (19th most in the NFL).


With the success of their respective teams into the playoffs, many Falcons fans hope to land Wilks, Johnson, or Macdonald; however, interviewing these coaches as candidates can be especially hard with their continued success deep into the playoffs and a rather short turnaround to the 2024 season beginning. If the Falcons choose to stick with Ridder, Detroit’s Ben Johnson could attempt to develop on the otherwise mediocre QB’s skill set similarly to Goff’s in Detroit. However, if the Falcons want to focus on their stronger side of the ball, Wilks or Macdonald could drive home a defensive culture of success for years to come.


Regardless of who fills this head coaching void, Falcons fans should be excited for the potential of a new team, new identity, and leaving the mediocrity of Arthur Smith in the past.