Arthur Blank: Falcons will 'let the season play out' before decision on Arthur Smith's future
Arthur Smith’s Atlanta Falcons laid an egg on Sunday, losing 9-7 to the previously one-win Carolina Panthers while putting up 204 yards of offense. The loss significantly sapped the Falcons’ chances of making the postseason as they now sit at 6-7 with three tilts to play.
Tuesday, Smith made another move at quarterback, benching Desmond Ridder for the second time this season in favor of Taylor Heinicke. The snip-snap-snip-snap-snip-snap of the quarterback position is the move of a coach searching for any answer to save his job.
Despite the disappointment in Atlanta, owner Arthur Blank will make no knee-jerk reactions, telling Jeff Hullinger of Georgia Public Broadcasting that any decision on Smith’s future will come after the final three games.
“We are committed to coach Smith,” Blank told Hullinger. “We are going to play these last three games; we are committed to win. We will let the season play out and go from there. Obviously, this has not been the kind of year we expected; you would hear that from coach Smith, you would hear it from our fans and our players. We understand that; we understand the challenges. At the end of the year, we will assess where we are and go from there.”
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After 7-10 seasons in each of his first two years, Smith is staring at another losing record in 2023 with games against Colts, Bears and Saints remaining.
In the offseason, the Falcons maneuvered like a team that believed it had a shot at making a deep playoff run. They invested heavily in the defense during free agency and drafted running back Bijan Robinson with the No. 8 overall pick. Convincing veterans like Calais Campbell, who is searching for a Super Bowl ring, to come to Atlanta underscored a club that sold itself as a contender.
When offseason expectations are not met with on-field success, change usually comes in quick order in the NFL. Blank added, however, that he never gave Smith a playoff mandate.
“No, that was never really a requirement,” he said. “The requirement was we have more of a competitive team this year. I think through this part of the season, it’s been mixed, quite honestly, that’s what I think. And that’s what the coach would say. Arthur is a very honest, very … he looks at himself very critically, so he comes from a beautiful family, that has great values and he reflects those values in his leadership the best he can. So, we’ll see how the season plays out and go from there.”
Smith’s offense can’t get off the ground with inconsistent quarterback play, regardless of who has been under center during his stint in Atlanta. His usage of Robinson this season, who saw seven carries for 11 yards in Sunday’s loss, has frustrated fans to no end.
Hullinger asked Blank if, as a public business, the fans must be appeased.
“It’s about pleasing the fans, but you have to put a product on the field that represents the best of our roster, the best of what we can put together,” he responded. “In my case, it’s having the best people we can making decisions. I don’t want to be in a position ever of having to pick players. I’ve never done that. I wouldn’t know how to do it. I’m like a fan in that regard, I have opinions, so does Jeff, and everyone else in Atlanta. It’s making sure we have right people. I would make sure they have all the resources and they are making the decisions they should make to putting a winning product on the field. That’s their job.”
It’s a job Smith hasn’t done enough of in three seasons in Atlanta. The coach has three more games to show Blank why he should get a fourth.
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