College football coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant once stated “It’s not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
For Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, the one team that practiced the principle of preparedness in week one against the Philadelphia Eagles was not his own. As a result, the Falcons suffered a 32-6 loss on their home field and now have an 0-2 start to the 2021 season staring them squarely in the face.
Here is the one question I have for the Falcons as they hit the road to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
How prepared can the Falcons be for the defending champions?
Smith made it known after their season opening loss that the team was not as prepared as it should have been, something we’ve commented on throughout the week. A lot, if not all, of the onus for the loss falls comfortably on his lap. As the head coach, that is ultimately the most important task. That’s especially true when it is a season opener against an opponent that has modest expectations that you have had a handful of months to prepare for.
Now a different beast stands before the Falcons on this young 2021 campaign. One that has a legendary quarterback (it is fine to agree), a trio of talented wide receivers, arguably the best offensive line in the league and a defense that has as much aggressiveness as it does pure talent. A team that leaves very little margin for error. One that requires extensive preparation.
Just ask the Dallas Cowboys. They’re a team that posted 451 total yards of offense and forced four turnovers on defense against the Buccaneers in opening night of the season and still lost, showing how few mistakes you can afford against Tampa Bay.
So for a rookie head coach, he has his work cut out for him. That’s especially true given the fact that the team is relying on rookies and first year players to get the job done on the weekly basis, in addition to still trying to incorporate a new offensive and defensive strategy.
As I do with a lot of my columns on here, keeping things in a very candid perspective is important to me. The talent for both the Falcons and the Buccaneers are on different levels. Of course, one team is coming off a dominant Super Bowl victory while the other just drafted inside the top-5 just a few months ago. One team is led by an historic figure at the most important position while the other is trying to establish an identity on both sides of the ball. One head coach has led some of the better offenses in recent history while the other head coach is just one game into his head coaching career.
If you have yet to identify my premise, things are going to be fairly difficult for the Falcons this upcoming Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Impossible? I wouldn’t say that. In the NFL, absolutely anything can happen on any given Sunday. It’s just that we need to fully understand the enormity of the task ahead of this team. A win here is going to require everyone to be at their best, and even then it’s going to be difficult to pull off. That does mean a surprise victory would be even sweeter.
When it comes to being prepared for their opponent, Smith and the Falcons must have the many issues that plagued them in Week 1 ironed out considerably or an even bigger question will be posed next week, even against a much less threatening opponent.