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Falcons fans are excited about the new regime, but can they tolerate some growing pains?

Fact: Arthur Smith can touch his head, shoulders, knees, and toes

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith deserves to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Smith earned that title, having transformed the Titans offense into a Ryan Tannehill-led juggernaut.

After a 3-year playoff drought, Falcons fans are excited about the future. Smith, in tandem with newly installed general manager Terry Fontenot, represents a wholesale changing of the guard. And he and Fontenot are a welcome reprieve from the feeling that we were all just banging our heads against a concrete wall since 2016.

But there are things Smith has never done. He’s never been the head coach of an NFL team. In fact, truth be told, he’s never been the head coach of any football team. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t the right man for the job—it just means there could be growing pains. In other words, unless everything goes right for Smith in his first year as head coach of the Falcons, he’s not going to completely evade the learning curve. That could manifest as some disappointing losses, or an early playoff exit.

So can the fan base stomach imperfection? That’s a loaded question, but a fair one. Falcons fans have traveled a long, bumpy road since Super Bowl 51, and their frustration with the state of the franchise is real. Matt Ryan is still the QB1, but his job security isn’t what it once was. (Just ask Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers what franchise loyalty looks like in 2021.) And Julio Jones probably just passed the WR1 baton to Calvin Ridley. We’d like to see one more deep playoff run with both men in Falcons uniforms, but as we well know, nothing is promised in the NFL.

Let me be clear, Smith isn’t owed anything. He may have been the hottest name and the Falcons’ preferred candidate, but he’s not getting a pass from this fan base. Right or wrong, there are a lot of Falcons fans that expect him to win 10+ football games and get the Falcons back to the playoffs in 2021. It’s probably unfair to say that he’s walking on thin ice, because he does have a lot of talent to work with already. But any fan base that’s endured what we have endured over the last 4 years is going to be apprehensive. And the ultimate question is whether we can ignore a red flag or two going forward, knowing that Smith will need 2-3 years to construct and establish his brand of Falcons football.

Are you ready for what comes next, Falcons fans?