Perhaps more important that Atlanta potentially making the playoffs with a win on Sunday, it is looking more and more likely Arthur Smith is either back or fired primarily based on the team’s performance against the Saints.
That may sound silly (and is, in fact, very silly), but based on multiple reports from national reporters, the team owner still hasn’t made a decision. My read is that Blank is strongly looking for a reason to keep Smith. However, he can’t sell tickets if the team can’t finish on a positive note. In fact, these reports all align with what Mike Garafolo told Steve Wyche just a few days back. If Smith wins, he’s in. If he loses, he’s out.
Adam Schefter of ESPN had the first rumor this weekend, which, in short, says that Blank doesn’t know what to do.
Blank is said to have gone back and forth, and to be torn, according to sources. He is a fan of coach Arthur Smith, one of the brighter offensive minds in the game, but that might not be enough for Atlanta to stand pat. The Falcons have been surveying the coaching landscape, mulling what options are out there should they decide to make a change, according to league sources.
Like a lot of Falcons rumors and reports with the national reporters, the comments are very friendly to the team. The above will cover the Falcons for whatever its decision ends up being, including that the team did its due diligence looking across the league for coaching candidates. If the Falcons keep Smith, well, that’s great, because he’s a great coach and everyone here loved him.
Diana Russini of The Athletic, who most recently had some bad info on Atlanta’s interest in the trade market, echoes most of Schefter’s comments. With one additional nugget.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank and head coach Arthur Smith have always had a healthy, communicative relationship. They’ve had three years together, and on Sunday they have a chance to get into the playoffs with a win against the New Orleans Saints and some help from the Carolina Panthers.... Keep an eye out for Blank to take a big swing for Belichick too if he moves on from Smith.
First, both Schefter and Russini, whether in the quote above or their greater article, make it clear that the Falcons must get a quarterback. Blank can’t sell tickets for another season of elite weapons stymied by (in Blank’s view) the quarterback position. Some may blame the head coach, but regardless, Blank wants to see a new quarterback.
Schefter’s and Russini’s reports may also align with interest in Bill Belichick. Schefter saying Blank is considering other options, with Russini making a more direct connection to Belichick. Whether that hire would be the start of a dynasty or wrap up in disaster in three to four seasons, trading for Belichick sure would fit Blank’s motif. Blank has frequently gone for the big move, and publicly courted Bill Parcells to run the team’s football operations. Parcells, of course, pulled a Deshaun Watson, and left Atlanta scrambling for eventual general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Blank has also frequently gotten his assumed top picks, but likely hoping to find a veteran coach with success vs. rolling the dice on three to four years on an unproven team lead.
A lot may really depend on Smith winning against the Saints on Sunday, with it much more difficult to get fired if you sneak into the playoffs. A lot could also depend on how much New England is looking for in a trade for Belichick. A lot could also depend on how well Smith is able to convince Blank he can turn this all around with a new quarterback.
We don’t know much, other than Blank hasn’t decided yet. We can speculate further but will know the final decision in just a few days.