There have been some wild things that have happened for the Atlanta Falcons ever since Arthur Smith took over as head coach and Terry Fontenot took over as general manager.
One thing that has popped up a few times now is players seemingly quitting on the team, either before or during the season. It begs the question of if the Falcons are having a problem with players quitting under the new regime.
The Falcons have had a few players leave the team in mysterious ways
It started back in the 2021 offseason, some rumors had popped up about the Falcons potentially trading Julio Jones. It seemed like a far-fetched idea until Julio’s voice could be heard on a popular sports talk show saying that he wanted to be traded. The team ended up granting his request and we have seen how well that has gone for him…
Then partway through the regular season, the Falcons got word that their other receiver, Calvin Ridley, was going to step away from the team due to personal reasons. As we all know now, he made a few poor choices that cost him this current season. The Falcons, much like Julio, ended up trading Ridley just over a month ago.
Now, here we are in December when the Falcons finally made the move to bench Marcus Mariota for the rookie Desmond Ridder. The day after the team told Mariota of the decision, he called them up to tell them that he would be stepping away from the team.
For three players to leave the team as they did is strange. You could also throw in two more situations that happened during the last offseason. The first being when the team signed Eddie Goldman only for him to retire less than two weeks later, and the second being when Matt Ryan requested a trade after he was lowballed with the team’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
Are the Falcons having an issue with players quitting on the team?
The Falcons have had some strange things happen ever since Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot came to town. Potentially, five players leaving the team in weird ways is certainly something worth looking at.
Is there some reason to worry? Possibly, but you shouldn’t be too worried about it because each situation has been vastly different.
Starting with Julio, he had remained as loyal to the team as anyone. He saw a new regime coming in and figured it would be another couple of years before they were back in contention, which was a couple years he could not waste. Did he approach the situation in the best way? Absolutely not, even if he didn’t know he was on live TV. However, you can hardly fault him for wanting to go to a team that was better equipped to contend right away.
Then you have Calvin Ridley. I, personally, do not believe he left the team in a malicious way. He likely had legit things he needed to take care of that were far more important than football. He certainly made some poor choices that he knew were wrong but there were FAR worse things he could have done.
As for Eddie Goldman, there are only a few people who know the reasons for his decision. He never even practiced with the Falcons so it isn’t like he quit because he hated the team.
As for Matt Ryan, the team simply lowballed him for a player who was bound to get suspended. We are all glad the Watson trade fell through because it could have really screwed up this team. Even without the team attempting to trade for Watson, it seemed like we weren’t going to see much of Ryan in the future. His situation was also similar to Julio’s, and both of them probably regret requesting a trade because things have not gone smoothly ever since.
And, finally, Marcus Mariota who has been bashed for quitting on the team because something did not go his way. Arthur Smith certainly seemed enraged with the situation, but the truth of the matter is, we do not have the full story. He just had a baby and he will be undergoing surgery on his knee, two things that are big deals.
While he would have likely continued playing through things if he wasn’t benched, it probably was best for him to step away even if it looks bad from the outside. Maybe he did quit on the team and if he did then shame on him, but let’s back away from trashing him if we don’t have all the details.
Verdict: The Falcons and their fans should not be worried about the loyalty of their players
Perhaps this is all wishful thinking and I am making an excuse for each of these players, but when you evaluate each situation, it becomes evident that each scenario was different. We may not know all the details on why each of these Falcons players moved on, but from an outside view, you can make an educated guess about each one of them.
We should not be worried about this coaching staff and how their players view them. If there were serious problems I think we would have heard rumblings by now. Just look at a team like the Broncos, there have been all sorts of things that signal dysfunction in their locker room.
It really seems like the players respect Arthur Smith and his coaching staff, as well as Terry Fontenot and the front office. Again, we should not be worried about the culture of this team, each one of those players had their own personal reason for leaving the team. Nothing suggests it had any correlation to hating the environment.