The Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Arthur Smith after three consecutive 7-10 seasons, the team announced Monday morning. Smith was unable to lead the Falcons to the playoffs in his three years at the helm, prompting team owner Arthur Blank and GM Terry Fontenot to make a change.
Smith’s Tenure Ends After Another Losing Season
The Falcons concluded the 2023-24 season with a 7-10 record after Sunday’s 30-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. While Atlanta showed progress in some areas under Smith, the team was unable to post a winning record in any of his three seasons .
Smith was hired in 2021 after serving as offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He brought an offensive background and a strong resume, having helped the Titans feature one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks. However, Smith’s offenses in Atlanta finished 25th, 27th and 24th in yards over the last three seasons .
In a statement, Blank indicated the Falcons are seeking a new coach who can lead the team to more success.
“This was a difficult decision, but we know the type of intense preparation and team-first culture our fans deserve and expect. We will casts a wide net to ensure we identify the best head coach for the Atlanta Falcons,” Blank said .
With another losing season in the books, Blank decided the team needed a new leader to guide their rebuilding efforts. Smith becomes the first official firing of “Black Monday” around the NFL.
What Went Wrong in Atlanta
There were high hopes when Atlanta selected quarterback Desmond Ridder in the 2022 draft to be Smith’s guy moving forward. Ridder showed flashes but struggled with consistency in his limited playing time. It’s unfair to pin the team’s failures solely on the rookie QB, but the offense clearly was not operating at a high enough level for Blank and Fontenot’s liking .
Injuries also played a role in holding back the Falcons during Smith’s tenure. Dynamic wideout Calvin Ridley was suspended for gambling prior to the 2022 season, while lead rusher Cordarrelle Patterson missed significant time this season. Even exciting rookie receiver Drake London had his year cut short. Still, the team expected better production from Smith’s side of the ball.
Defense Shows Promise for Next Coach
The Falcons defense was vastly improved this season under defensive coordinator Dean Pees. After finishing 31st in yards allowed in 2021, the unit jumped to 16th in 2022. Rookie pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie looks like a building block for the future as well. So Atlanta’s defense appears to be trending upward .
Pees has not announced if he plans to stay on board for 2024. If the 77-year-old decides to retire, the new coach will have another key role to fill. Still, the cupboard won’t be completely bare for Smith’s replacement on defense.
What’s Next in Coach Search?
The Falcons face lots of uncertainty heading into the offseason. Ridder did just enough to likely warrant another chance as the starter next year. The new coach can decide whether to commit fully to the 2022 third-rounder or explore other veteran options if they prefer a more proven quarterback .
As for the coaching search, secondary coach Jon Hoke will serve as interim head coach for now. Expect GM Fontenot to lead a broad search for a new leader over the coming weeks and months. Atlanta could target candidates with a strong offensive pedigree this time around after the team’s disappointing showings on that side of the ball under Smith .
Potential top candidates include:
- Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy
- 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans
- Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon
- Lions OC Ben Johnson
- Former Saints coach Sean Payton
The Falcons will have lots of options to replenish their coaching staff. Landing an established name like Payton would certainly reinvigorate the fanbase after three dull losing seasons.
Blank said there is no exact timetable for hiring the new coach. But expect the process to heat up this week around the NFL.
Possible Reunion With Quinn?
One fascinating rumor floating around is the potential for a reunion with former Falcons coach Dan Quinn. Quinn led Atlanta to Super Bowl 51 and has rebuilt his stock as defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. He remains popular amongst fans and players in the Falcons organization .
Quinn’s units in Dallas have dominated, finishing top-7 in scoring defense each of the past two seasons. His penchant for motivating players and building strong relationships could make Quinn an intriguing candidate if Atlanta wants a comfortable known quantity. Blank had no updates when asked specifically about his interest level in bringing back his old coach. But it’s something to monitor.
Final Table Comparing Smith to Other “One-and-Done” Coaches
* Made playoffs
Smith will join this ignominious list of “one-and-done” new coaches who failed to even reach 10 wins. Of course, Smith lasted three full years while these others didn’t make it more than one. But Kitchens and Petrino clearly crashed hard in their opportunities. Smith guided Atlanta respectably compared to those quick flame-outs.
Only Chip Kelly had any postseason success before immediately getting canned after one year. Smith simply could not stack enough wins in the tough NFC South during his three seasons at the helm.
The Road Ahead
The Falcons face a crucial offseason that could dramatically reshape the trajectory of the franchise. Finding the right new coach to lead Matt RyanRidder and the rebuild remains the priority. But Fontenot also needs to nail the 2023 draft and infuse more young talent onto the roster.
Atlanta still looks to be several pieces away from contending. But a strong draft class and successful coaching search would go a long way. For now, Smith pays the price for failing to deliver a true turnaround during his three-year tenure guiding the Falcons.
This story will continue to develop over the coming days and weeks as a new coach gets hired. Stick with The Falcoholic for the latest updates throughout the coaching search process. The Arthur Smith era has reached its bitter end, and a new chapter for Atlanta now begins.
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