After a week 1 horrible showing by the Atlanta Falcons, there have been many angry fans concerned about where this team is headed, and expectedly so. As a result, may strong feelings have been relayed about some of the personnel decisions that new GM Terry Fontenot has made up to this point. Everything from criticizing the Kyle Pitts pick at 4th overall over taking a QB of the future, to not addressing the offensive and defensive lines enough in free agency have been topics of conversation in this fanbase over the past week.
The criticisms haven’t ended and won’t any time soon, and I certainly completely understand the frustration from a fanbase that has endured so much from this franchise for so long. The fans just want to see a consistent winner on the field and to get that ever elusive Super Bowl Championship. However, the question at this point becomes, what is really to be expected from this team as it is now, and when will the winning ways return?
Atlanta’s current roster
I’ve had my days of being an optimist as well as a pessimist when it comes to the Falcons roster. Most importantly, I strive to be a realist.
This roster has quite a few holes, and truthfully, it was in shambles before Terry Fontenot took the general manager job. Fontenot is the first general manager that Arthur Blank has hired since 2008, and Arthur Smith was his 3rd head coach hired during that time frame. We know, of course, that all GMs have different drafting and personnel building philosophies.
Although the previous GM Thomas Dimitroff brought the likes of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to the roster, he fell flat regularly when it came to drafting trench players. Dimitroff was never really successful at drafting edge rushers, and the same can be said for the offensive line. I’m mentioning this because of what Fontenot has walked into from a roster standpoint. Add the contracts still on the books when it comes to the salary cap along with the dead money, and Fontenot has a difficult project ahead of him.
Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first years as GM and HC
As it sits right now, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have some high priorities that need to be taken care of.
1. Cleaning up the salary cap situation, which is a daunting task.
2. Rebuilding the roster while dealing with the cap.
3. Adequately developing talent on the roster.
Now, nothing about this is easy. While all fans have an idea of how they think it should be done, my opinion is there is no one way to do it. With the 4th overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts, tight end from Florida. Now before I proceed, let me iterate that I had absolutely no issue, either way, with how Fontenot approached this pick.
It could have been a quarterback or simply the best player available as Fontenot saw it, and I was going to be completely okay with it. Why? This roster is seriously devoid of talent and the Falcons simply need good football players. For those fans that were upset about Fontenot not taking a quarterback, I hope I can clear it up a bit for you. As a brand new general manager with a seriously fractured roster, you have to love a QB to connect your career to him that early. If Fontenot loved a quarterback that was on the board at 4, I would’ve been on board with him picking that player. Plus, Fontenot made it very clear that he has a best player available draft philosophy, which is very different from we were used to under Dimitroff. The former Falcons general manager mostly was a needs based drafter. It’s okay to have a mindset to speak on what the Falcons need—it’s a big part of what we do as fans—but if Fontenot holds true to the BPA draft philosophy, fans are setting themselves up for disappointment.
While it’s Fontenot’s job to help build the roster and manager the cap, of course it’s Arthur Smith’s job to put players in the position to succeed and develop talent on the roster. Coach Smith has initially been very adamant about overall accountability and being smart on the field. He has only just begun, as the Falcons have only played one game in the regular season. However, it must be stated that first game against the Eagles was quite horrible when it comes to play calling, overall execution and discipline. Not a very good start at all for Coach Smith. Right now, what I’ll be noticing is how he and the coaching staff respond to such an outing and how this team adjusts and progresses through the season because this roster is still being built. There are still holes on this present roster that can’t go unnoticed.
To summarize, as much as I understand the frustration of the fans, it has to be remembered that Fontenot and Smith are in their first years as general manager and head coach, respectively. They’ve never held the roles before, so naturally there are going to be some growing pains.
The reason why I’ve remained calm, even after that debacle against the Eagles, is because I have absolutely no expectations in regards to how this team will ultimately perform this season. To me, progress is key, and this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. I’m not saying that the fans shouldn’t be angry about the current state of the Falcons. All I’m saying is to remember that it’s going to take time to build a consistent winner under new leadership.