Arthur Smith proving the Atlanta Falcons hired the right guy
When the Atlanta Falcons hired Arthur Smith there was a mixed reaction across the fanbase. On one hand, you had a coach who engineered Ryan Tannehill into looking like a top-ten quarterback in this league.
On the other, how much does an offensive coordinator really have on his plate when he has the best running back in football, one Derrick Henry? We are now thirteen games into the season and have a good idea of who Arthur Smith is and what he is going to bring to Atlanta.
Has Arthur Smith been perfect in his rookie campaign? Far from it, but Smith has shown continued growth and has his team playing meaningful games deep into December. This article isn’t an argument that the Atlanta Falcons are a legitimate playoff team. Just as anyone who has watched the Falcons knows this team isn’t going to find playoff success even if they managed to sneak in.
Arthur Smith is proving he has this Atlanta Falcons team headed in the right direction
The point here is that the fact we are even discussing the playoffs as we enter the halfway point of the month of December is an accomplishment. Arthur Smith has far less talent on this roster than former head coach Dan Quinn had the last three years.
At nearly every position Quinn had more talent and fewer results. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Desmond Trufant, Alex Mack, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee are just a few of the notable departures of the last two years.
This Atlanta Falcons roster has the smallest amount of talent since we watched this team go to the Super Bowl five years ago. Yet somehow Smith has this roster in the mix and a game out of a playoff spot heading into a matchup with the 49ers.
There have been a lot of changes in Atlanta including a defense that doesn’t give up and an ability to hold a lead late into a game and not utterly collapse. However, the most notable change Arthur Smith has implemented is an unwavering commitment to the run game that has given Atlanta life late into the season.
Smith doesn’t have a top-tier running back or a good run-blocking offensive line and yet he has found ways to maximize what Atlanta does have. That has been the story of the Falcons season thus far. Arthur Smith’s Falcons play hard and give everything they have on Sunday.
Yes, there are the two miserable blowouts to the Patriots and Cowboys to consider, however, after back-to-back debacles Arthur Smith coached his team back into the wildcard race and has them beating teams with more talent.
Recent victories against the Saints and Panthers point out how well-coached this Atlanta Falcons team has been. Yes, they are hated rivals and the games will always be close, however, if you’re just even a bit unbiased and peruse all three rosters what you find will be surprising.
New Orleans and Carolina both have far more pieces on their respective rosters defensively and when it comes to skill players. Matt Ryan is the one clear advantage the Falcons hold over these two rosters. Otherwise, it is hard to find a position group that tilts in Atlanta’s favor. The point here is in Arthur Smith’s first season this team could easily be at the bottom of their division working on draft positioning.
However, that isn’t the culture Smith is instilling in Atlanta, he is coaching a team that is suddenly holding onto late leads and beating the teams they should. While these two things are expected of most NFL teams for Atlanta this is noteworthy.
Last year’s Atlanta Falcons teams fall under the pressure when the Jaguars or the Panthers made a late run. They fall into the narrative of the Falcons being unable to hold a lead and this team is waiting for the draft yet again.
Arthur Smith has made mistakes this season he has made mistakes with clock management and had poor play calls. However, he has shown continued growth and left plenty of reasons to think he is installing a new culture in Atlanta.
One that has helped Atlanta learn to keep a lead and beat teams with comparable talent. Leaving one to wonder what could Arthur Smith do with a talented roster?