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Arthur Smith chose unlikely profession. Now he must deliver for Falcons - The Athletic


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by Jeff Schultz for The Athletic 

 

Because everything written about Arthur Smith at some point includes the same sentence — “Arthur Smith, son of Federal Express founder Fred Smith …” – John Bunting almost didn’t make the phone call. Why would he? Why offer a meal-money job to a former prep school kid who grew up with wealth and high-thread-count sheets? Why ask the son of a billionaire if he loves football so much that he’s willing to put in long hours for a profession that actually might not go anywhere.

Post-graduate life for the Arthur Smiths of the 1 percent world works like “Succession,” does it not? They don’t take grad assistant jobs with football programs. Do they?

“I really didn’t think he would want the job,” Bunting, North Carolina’s former longtime football coach, said Friday. “I knew he had qualifications. I knew he loved the game. But I didn’t know if he loved it enough to be a grunt. I’ve been a grunt before. I know what grunts have to do. First ones in, last ones to leave. I didn’t know if he wanted all that. I didn’t know if he could take that.”

Arthur Smith, son of a billionaire, chose to be a grunt.

In 2006, the little-known, oft-injured, reserved offensive lineman for North Carolina passed up an internship in investment banking in Hong Kong — because isn’t that what awaits everyone after graduation? — to accept his former coach’s offer to be a grad assistant. So began a career that didn’t quite ascend with the speed of an overnight delivery envelope but still moved pretty **** fast, relatively speaking.

At the age of 38 and after only two years as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, he was named the Falcons’ head coach Friday.

Bunting believes he will be successful. He praised Smith for his intelligence, demeanor and an inner confidence that he projected on others even as a player.

“Players will want to play for him, and he’ll build a great staff and delegate very well,” Bunting said. “He’s very organized.”

The Falcons need all that and more.

Let’s be clear: There are never guarantees with new head coaches. (Or, as we’ve learned, even experienced head coaches.)

There are some coaches who win news conferences and lose games (see: Rex Ryan). There are some who get nobody excited on Day 1 but then go to the playoffs in four of their first five seasons for a perennially losing franchise (see: Mike Smith). There are some who have everybody believing seas will part in the first season, and then the opening kickoff in Week 1 bounces off the returner’s head and the executive who made the choice gets that Scooby-Doo “Rut-Roh” look on his face while the team’s owner shoots lightning bolts from his eyes.

But the Falcons need a grunt. This will not be an easy job for Smith and incoming general manager Terry Fontenot (who will be officially named to the position when his current team, the Saints, are out of the playoffs and/or give him permission to go). The Falcons will need to rebuild a roster that has some young talent but a significant number of holes. They will need to navigate around a precarious salary-cap situation that finds them approximately $24.692 million in the hole and yet with just 31 players under contract for 2021.

Most of all, they will need to come up with The Plan. Subsections: Short term. Long term. Matt Ryan. Julio Jones. Draft.

The last time the Falcons brought in both a new coach (Mike Smith) and a new general manager (Thomas Dimitroff), they inherited a post-Michael-Vick-and-Bobby-Petrino, seemingly bottomless dumpster of flaming green goo. It was that bad.

The organization decided to push reset and started a new era with a new quarterback. They drafted Matt Ryan at No. 3. Hey, look, only one spot off from this year’s position of fourth. It might be that time again.

It can’t all be fixed at once. It will take consistency in thought and process. It will take a number of smart draft picks because free agents aren’t coming here for the peanuts the Falcons can spend right now.

It will take leadership from their grunt of a coach, who has the humility and work ethic of someone living paycheck to paycheck. Smith went from his grad assistant job at North Carolina to two years working for Joe Gibbs in Washington. He spent one season at Ole Miss in 2010 as an intern and an administrative assistant, then somehow landed a job on Mike Munchak’s staff with the Titans as a defensive quality control coach. So began a span of 10 seasons at Tennessee, covering four head coaches (Munchak, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, Mike Vrabel) who all decided not only to keep him but also to promote him. He moved from defense to offense, from low-paid quality control assistant to position coach to offensive coordinator under Vrabel in 2019.

The Titans have run a power rushing attack led by Derrick Henry. But quarterback Ryan Tannehill had easily the two best seasons of his career with Smith calling plays (55 touchdowns, 13 interceptions). Smith worked for a season under current Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, a Kyle Shahanan disciple, and is known to be creative and adapt his scheme to the talent available.

Creative. Adaptive. What concepts.

But schemes can be overrated. The Falcons didn’t go 18-30 the past three seasons because of scheme issues. They made poor choices in addressing personnel and staffing issues. They gave too much money to too many of the wrong players. Things can go wrong quickly in a salary-cap world.

Dan Quinn was a good coach for a while. But he fell short when it came to discipline and holding his players accountable. Everybody loved him. But did they always play with an edge for Dan Quinn? No.

The Falcons need more than empty platitudes. They need a coaching staff that knows how to make adjustments on the fly. They need players who don’t drop into quicksand when games go sideways. They need to prepare and practice and play like their next meal depends on it. They need a head coach who can both relate to what they’re going through and be willing to make the tough decisions to sit them down or run them out when expectations are not met.

Things have been too comfortable in the Falcons’ crumbling empire for far too long.

Arthur Smith has to fix that. He chose this profession when he didn’t have to, but it will take more than desire to make the Falcons well again. It will take a bunch of people willing to work like grunts, regardless of salary or résumé.
 

 

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4 hours ago, Atl Falcon said:

But schemes can be overrated. The Falcons didn’t go 18-30 the past three seasons because of scheme issues. They made poor choices in addressing personnel and staffing issues. They gave too much money to too many of the wrong players. Things can gowrong quickly in a salary-cap world.

Troffed 

I rest my case

DQ was in charge of the 53 man roster and coaching staff decisions. Keeping Beasley etc.

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We paid the wrong guys I love this stuff.

Debo Jarrett Julio Ryan the wrong guys lol.

2 potential HOFers in those 4 if there the wrong guys who are the right ones.
 

Oh the crystal ball says hindsight is about to be deployed.

WCO highly over rated offensive scheme it only helped the Falcons get to the SB and Matt Ryan as league MVP.Schemes don’t matter I mean coaching whats coaching.

League MVP in one scheme.

A predictable player in another one lol scheme and coaching over rated alright.

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3 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

We paid the wrong guys I love this stuff.

Debo Jarrett Julio Ryan the wrong guys lol.

2 potential HOFers in those 4 if there the wrong guys who are the right ones.
 

Oh the crystal ball says hindsight is about to be deployed.

WCO highly over rated offensive scheme it only helped the Falcons get to the SB and Matt Ryan as league MVP.Schemes don’t matter I mean coaching whats coaching.

League MVP in one scheme.

A predictable player in another one lol scheme and coaching over rated alright.

I didn’t take it that way. I thought of guys like Beasley, Fowler, carpenter, Brown, etc. we have missed on free agents/veterans at an alarming rate.

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There’s plenty of collective blame to go around obviously.

Ultimately AB is responsible for the incompetence & lack of accountability. From our OC, HC & personnel failures at the GM level, our franchise couldn’t manage to field a defense or manage to win games that should have already been won.

A new day has begun & I’m encouraged by whose taking over so far.  Our town & our fanbase long for a team we can have pride in once again.  

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7 hours ago, 1989Fan said:

I didn’t take it that way. I thought of guys like Beasley, Fowler, carpenter, Brown, etc. we have missed on free agents/veterans at an alarming rate.

There wrong but aren’t long term crippling deals.

Fowler I’ll give him this year to pull finger before putting him in that category.

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3 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

I’m glad TD turned a basket case into a potential champ when no other GM in the history of the franchise got them close.

And you always seem to be happy about being mediocre. 
The Smith family is gone and so is TD.

Its time to move on and set higher goals and achieve them with the new regime. We lost nothing with TD other than a K mart blue light special. Dude did not know how to build a team and got his asz fired and left us in a mess. 
Let him go!

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1 hour ago, Atl Falcon said:

And you always seem to be happy about being mediocre. 
The Smith family is gone and so is TD.

Its time to move on and set higher goals and achieve them with the new regime. We lost nothing with TD other than a K mart blue light special. Dude did not know how to build a team and got his asz fired and left us in a mess. 
Let him go!

How is it mediocre there’s expectations there that were not there before.Did you not see the win loss history of the Falcons before TD got here.It’s hardly his fault the coaches and players blew the SB in 16 is it.

Its hardly his fault they blew multiple NFCCGs chances.He put the parts there the jobs not getting finished that’s his downfall and because he’s joined at the hip he’s been moved on.

The idea I or TD didn’t have loftier goals is a fallacy.For the most part the hate comes from the way he built the team if anything.

113-95 and a 4-6 playoff history for a long termed GM isn’t a bad one if you go through the books of others I bet he measures quite well.

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4 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

How is it mediocre there’s expectations there that were not there before.Did you not see the win loss history of the Falcons before TD got here.It’s hardly his fault the coaches and players blew the SB in 16 is it.

Its hardly his fault they blew multiple NFCCGs chances.He put the parts there the jobs not getting finished that’s his downfall and because he’s joined at the hip he’s been moved on.

The idea I or TD didn’t have loftier goals is a fallacy.For the most part the hate comes from the way he built the team if anything.

113-95 and a 4-6 playoff history for a long termed GM isn’t a bad one if you go through the books of others I bet he measures quite well.

But I don’t like it and AB obviously didn’t and there’s many many more fans that feel the same way. What did we win with TD? How many SB trophies did we win with TD? Do you like being out of the playoffs for three consecutive years? Do you like all the FAT CONTACTS he handed out? Do you like all the edge rushers via draft FA he acquired? Are you satisfied with the gaping holes he always had in the OL?  Did he ever build a DL? Did he ever build a top ten defense consistently? Did he give gimpy knees Gurley a big fat one yr contract that he didn’t deserve or earn? Did he piss away 50 million dollars on two flopping over paid FA guards Brown and Carpenter? Is this the same guy who gave Ray Edwards a big fat contract? Is this the same guy who took Takk McKinley ver TJ Watt? Is this the same guy you said never was the problem due to bad coaching?  LOOK PAL one common denominator for 13 years and it ain’t all coaching. TD couldn’t pick his nose and find a burger. He’s gone and deserves to be get over it.

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12 minutes ago, Atl Falcon said:

But I don’t like it and AB obviously didn’t and there’s many many more fans that feel the same way. What did we win with TD? How many SB trophies did we win with TD? Do you like being out of the playoffs for three consecutive years? Do you like all the FAT CONTACTS he handed out? Do you like all the edge rushers via draft FA he acquired? Are you satisfied with the gaping holes he always had in the OL?  Did he ever build a DL? Did he ever build a top ten defense consistently? Did he give gimpy knees Gurley a big fat one yr contract that he didn’t deserve or earn? Did he piss away 50 million dollars on two flopping over paid FA guards Brown and Carpenter? Is this the same guy who gave Ray Edwards a big fat contract? Is this the same guy who took Takk McKinley ver TJ Watt? Is this the same guy you said never was the problem due to bad coaching?  LOOK PAL one common denominator for 13 years and it ain’t all coaching. TD couldn’t pick his nose and find a burger. He’s gone and deserves to be get over it.

When did we win without TD ?See how that works was it TDs fault in 2016 that coaches and players screw our chance for a chip?What GM in the history before him have got us that close I’ll wait?

You told me you are a long term fan of this team when in the first 40 plus years of this franchises history have the Falcons had the success they had under another GM?

So coaching I’ve been talking that as an issue for the last 3 years.After 17 we went backwards do you disagree with that?

Like all GMs in the league they all hand out bad contracts at one time or another you make it sound like TD is thee only guy that does this.Draft picks aswell the guy TD replaced took JA98 for god sakes with a top 10 pick.

He gave Gurley 5 mill hows that a bad contract tell me how did that really cripple the team or was it the fact that the dip**** calling plays didn’t commit to the run.

A worse contract is someone like Trufant who went backwards after he got hurt in comparison again who and what are you comparing it too.What’s worse as a comparison giving thee above or guaranteeing Cousins of Minnesota all that cash or giving an injury case Wentz in Philly his cash or Jimmy G in San Fran for exactly what see how this works when you sit back and try and tell me how bad TD is when it’s common place round the league.

See he can still do all of thee above yet the Falcons have been a winning franchise consistently this was never been the case in its history.

TD wasn’t perfect but compared to a lot of thee absolute village idiots we’ve had in the past he’s miles ahead of them.

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2 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

When did we win without TD ?See how that works was it TDs fault in 2016 that coaches and players screw our chance for a chip?What GM in the history before him have got us that close I’ll wait?

You told me you are a long term fan of this team when in the first 40 plus years of this franchises history have the Falcons had the success they had under another GM?

So coaching I’ve been talking that as an issue for the last 3 years.After 17 we went backwards do you disagree with that?

Like all GMs in the league they all hand out bad contracts at one time or another you make it sound like TD is thee only guy that does this.Draft picks aswell the guy TD replaced took JA98 for god sakes.

He gave Gurley 5 mill hows that a bad contract tell me how ?

A worse contract is someone like Trufant who went backwards after he got hurt in comparison again who and what are you comparing it too.What’s worse as a comparison giving thee above or guaranteeing Cousins of Minnesota all that cash or giving an injury case Wentz in Philly his cash or Jimmy G in San Fran for exactly what see how this works when you sit back and try and tell me how bad TD is when it’s common place round the league.

See he can still do all of thee above yet the Falcons have been a winning franchise consistently this was never been the case in its history.

TD wasn’t perfect but compared to a lot of thee absolute village divots we’ve had Hes miles ahead of them.

Ok ole Pal - forget about the old times. We’ve moved on. TD was 10Xs better than the Smith family  He was okay mostly because of who? You got three guesses and your first two are wrong. Bingo - Matt Ryan carried TD, HCs, AB, the defense and the whole freaking city of Atl pretty much for 13 flipping years. 
Okay I 100% totally agree TD was the best GM we ever had. But some folks want more from owner GM HC positions coaches scouts etc.....

We did not get there with spiky hair...sorry

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On 1/15/2021 at 10:07 PM, Atl Falcon said:

But schemes can be overrated. The Falcons didn’t go 18-30 the past three seasons because of scheme issues. They made poor choices in addressing personnel and staffing issues. They gave too much money to too many of the wrong players. Things can gowrong quickly in a salary-cap world.

Troffed 

I rest my case

Your case is trash 

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