The 2021 Falcons were a a bit of a mess, given that they were trying to chart a course between contender and rebuilding squad with very little in the way of resources. Their insistence that they intended to contend looked comical in the early going of that last season, but despite some awfully rickety performances against contenders, Atlanta did come out of the year at 7-10. They never really wavered in their belief that they were something more than that, though, which was admirable in its way.
Fresh off an uneven but promising offseason, the Falcons are set to head into the unknown waters of the 2022 season. Perhaps predictably, their confidence has not waned after another year of implementing their vision, even if predictions keep putting them at or near the bottom of the league.
#Falcons Arthur Smith: Last year doesn't matter. This is a different season, a different team. The hot takes and predictions, they are a joke. We have to go out here and get better. We know there's stuff we have to fix.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) July 29, 2022
#Falcons Arthur Smith on outside expectations: Go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out. Go back and look at old predictions if you want some good comedy.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) July 29, 2022
Arthur Smith’s characteristically withering optimism has been echoed in more upbeat fashion by Kyle Pitts, Olamide Zaccheaus, and others on the Falcons. Over and over again, players, coaches, and front office personnel for this team have the opportunity to talk about the long-term plan or even mildly downplay expectations and elect not to do so. Over and over again, this team’s confidence impresses, even if we set our own expectations lower.
This wasn’t an accident a year ago and it’s not an accident now. The Falcons undoubtedly are aware of their limitations to at least some degree, because they’re talking openly about sniffing around cuts from other teams to improve a roster in need of it. But there’s also a bedrock belief in their potential for greatness that’s not insincere, which is not unique for any NFL team but is the necessary underpinning of an actual great Falcons team, whenever that team arrives. It’s fair to say the 2022 team has a ceiling—in my opinion, it does—but the team needs to strive for more and attain the greatest possible heights they can. Where that confidence may have felt unearned last year as they were getting crushed in the early weeks of the 2021 season, it feels more just for a more experienced staff and more talented roster.
All that guarantees nothing, but it’s almost enough to make you believe in a team that still feels like a work in progress, which is the point. If extra confidence makes this a better and more enjoyable team in 2022, it’s worth the iPhone references.