I almost always regret making big, sweeping statements, but I’ve never been one to stop touching the hot stove just because it’s hot. Let’s kick off our Saturday morning with me making a definitive statement that you’ll probably agree with.
Arthur Smith is not going to be fired in 2022.
You might ask what prompted me to write that, given that it’s late June and nobody’s exactly clamoring for his head right now, so I present the odds on the first coach to be canned in 2022 from earlier in the week.
BetOnline has released odds on the first NFL coach to be fired or resign this upcoming season...Matt Rhule is the favorite at +300 pic.twitter.com/6ZpFVxBprS— Locked On Sports (@LockedOnNetwork) June 21, 2022
There are a few names that don’t belong here, in my opinion, and Dan Campbell, Smith, and Robert Saleh top the list. All three took over awful, rudderless squads that needed a massive infusion of talent, and all three are entering second seasons with their respective teams. If any of those franchises have ownership groups that expect playoff-caliber teams in 2022, then those franchises have an ownership problem rather than a head coach problem.
This is not to imply that Arthur Smith has proven to be a top-flight coach, because I don’t think we’ve seen that just yet, especially in terms of his in-game decision-making. It is to say that his results in Tennessee suggested a bright offensive mind, and the Falcons need to see what his teams will look like with time and with talent added. They’ve taken some steps in the right direction this year, but they’re still in a proving phase and the widespread impression outside of Flowery Branch is that this is one of the least talented squads in the NFL. Smith undoubtedly needs to show progress—he’s admitted as much—but this is not a do-or-die year for the coaching staff or front office, and it shouldn’t be.
If Smith and company win fewer games in 2022 but this looks like a better football team, he’ll be on very comfortable footing heading into 2023, when I do believe Terry Fontenot and the front office will build a drastically improved squad. If the Falcons are lousy and the offense in particular doesn’t make any strides, there will be additional pressure to win once the team spends big, and I do think three straight underwhelming seasons would be trouble with Arthur Blank’s desire to have this team win. Either way, even the suggestion of Smith losing his job in 2022 seems silly.
Regardless of how many games the Falcons win in 2022, Arthur Smith is not going to be fired barring some sort of off-field immolation. Go ahead and toss these odds out.