We’ve heard, at different points in this hiring cycle, that Eric Bieniemy and Joe Brady were strong candidates in Atlanta, and that Brady liked his chances of getting the Falcons job. With the dust close to settling with Terry Fontenot expected to be the next Falcons general manager, it’s a third candidate drawing all the attention, as Atlanta is making a big push for Arthur Smith to be their head coach this morning.
Per multiple reports from ESPN’s Diana Russini and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, among others, the Falcons have Arthur Smith in Atlanta and are trying to get a deal done before he leaves.
As we wait to see if Arthur Smith officially takes the job in Atlanta, among all OCs in the last 20 seasons, Arthur Smith offenses ranked 1st in red zone efficiency, 2nd in yards per play, and 4th in scoring.— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) January 15, 2021
As this isn’t a done deal, I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Smith’s experience or what we should expect from him, as you can read Eric Robinson’s breakdown for that at the moment and we’ll have much more to come if the hire is confirmed. The fact that Smith is not planning to head to Detroit now is a good sign for Atlanta’s chances. I do want to say that the hire makes sense on paper.
The sharp criticism of the Titans offense and Smith against the Ravens is getting some fans down on his candidacy, but as Russini notes above, Smith has presided over one of the league’s best offenses the last couple of seasons. Where the Falcons struggled mightily to score in the red zone in recent years, Smith’s offense in Tennessee was efficient and terrific at converting scoring opportunities. In Atlanta he’ll have no Derrick Henry and will likely look to the draft to give him a capable back, but Smith also built an underrated passing attack around Ryan Tannehill, who is a fine quarterback but not one who had anywhere near Matt Ryan’s track record before arriving in Tennessee. The personnel will need to be enhanced, but I’m confident he and his staff will do a better job with the offense than Dirk Koetter.
The hope will be that Smith will draw on his decade in Tennessee under four different head coaches to help him build a staff, with current Titans offensive line coach Keth Carter at the top of my list for that. We don’t know just yet who he’ll hire to run his defense or really anything about how this is going to go, but there’s a reason Smith was one of the hottest candidates in this hiring cycle even if he was not my #1 choice (that’d be Eric Bieniemy, who is the most experienced and capable offensively-minded candidate and should draw strong interest from the Eagles, Lions and Texans). We’ll see if Atlanta can get the job done this morning.