Jump to content

Getting to know Arthur Smith/Albert Breer interview


Lowndesfalc
 Share

Recommended Posts

The Falcons/Arthur Smith portion of Albert Breer’s MMQB


arthur-smith-falcons-head-coach.jpg

George Walker IV/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

GETTING TO KNOW ARTHUR SMITH

I was like a lot of people who’ve been around new Falcons coach Arthur Smith—I heard about the rising young coach well before I knew who his dad was. But for obvious reasons, as he inched closer to reaching the top of his chosen profession, it increasingly became known that he was the son of FedEx founder Fred Smith (I did eventually figure it out).

Now? Well, now, as part of his place in the coaching carousel, it’s actually become a piece of how he’s introduced. And that’s fine with him. He’s proud to be his dad’s son.

But in turning over rocks the last couple weeks, I got an interesting take on all this from a team executive who interviewed him, as part of explanation on how his name got so hot. While Smith, to be sure, showed the sort of intelligence an entrepreneurial visionary’s offspring might, he also had a reputation for carrying a work ethic and passion for the game that you might not expect from a guy who, if we’re being honest, would be probably be O.K. in life without sitting in dark rooms at an ungodly hours watching football players on tape.

So when Smith and I talked the other day, that’s where we started.

“It was probably at the end of my high school career,” said Smith, who went to Georgetown Prep in D.C. and went on to play at North Carolina. “I certainly have other interests and I’m very curious about other industries, other things that I could have seen myself doing. But I knew I wanted to play as long as I could, and it was going to end at some point. We all want and we all hope to have a Bruce Matthews career. 

“But it’s realistically not going to happen for most. And I always knew I wanted to be involved in football in some way. I think in a lot of ways it gave me an identity that kind of gave me a chance to prove myself, because I think there’s a lot of narratives about that, kind of what you’re saying. I think that people just assume that because of your background that you live a certain way or you have certain values.

“And it couldn’t be …” Smith then paused and continued, “it’s just false, and that’s why I always give everybody the benefit of the doubt to prove who they are, instead of just looking at your background saying, Alright, well, you live in Boston, you must be an a------.’”

We were both laughing at that point. I told him it might be a fair assumption. He kept going, telling the story of how one of his teammates in college was surprised that Smith came off as just one of the guys.

“I was like, What did this dumb--- think? That you were going to get driven in a Bentley to practice?” Smith joked. “It’s a credit to my parents, to my dad. Like I said, he’s a Marine at heart. he served in Vietnam, did two tours. And he went to Yale, but he said the best lessons he ever learned were from the USM, more than he probably did anywhere else in his schooling. So that probably helped.”

Safe to say, just as his dad established an identity for himself on different fronts, Arthur Smith, one of 10 kids, has done the same. A few more nuggets from our conversation …

Smith picked Atlanta, just as Atlanta picked him. The ex-Titans OC had options. Every team with an opening, all seven of them, put in for him. So as much as he did have to win the interview, Smith was also weighing one job against the next, in case he did have to pick between them. And so he made a ton of calls to his connections across the coaching business to identify what would be important to him and find a team that had it.

“Rarely do you get options,” Smith said. “So obviously, it was nice to have options in terms of talking to multiple teams, to kind of see the landscape. I just wanted to know that it was a stable structure. I didn’t care if the team had been there already or not. So that was a big deal, [as was] how collaborative it was going to be with the GM in place or if they were going to hire somebody.”

His background work (and he worked with Atlanta exec Ruston Webster in Tennessee, so there were things he already knew) showed the Falcons to have the sort of sustainable setup he wanted, and the clincher there, really, was the rapport he felt with owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay on his second interview.

Job No. 1 will be, then, building a similar rapport with his GM. Smith and new GM Terry Fontenot, coming over from the Saints, didn’t know each other before this month. That, of course, means they have a lot to do, and it’s starting with the coaches teaching Fontenot and the scouts what they’re looking for schematically, and from each position. Together, Smith and Fontenot will break down their own beliefs and build up one program.

“It’s huge,” Smith said. “The stuff that he values, his grading systems and coming from New Orleans. And stuff that we value as coaches, the type of players we want to fit the schemes we’re going to run. It’s got to be collaborative, it’s got to be open and there’s got to be compromise, which I’m very confident Terry and I will do. I love this experience that he’s bringing. We have to sit down with his staff and have some long, long meetings and make sure everybody is on the same page and everybody’s opinion is heard. 

One thing that’ll be non-negotiable links to why he was such a hot candidate. And that’s building in the flexibility to get the most out of every single player. It happened, notably, with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry in Tennessee—the careers of both took off on Smith’s watch the last two years. 

“In praise of [Titans GM] Jon [Robinson], he kind of set the stage—here’s the kind of team we want to be,” Smith said. “And so that kind of made it easy and it was intentional, to make sure we had to put the players in the right spot to execute that. We were going to be going to heavy and physical because that pointed to their strength. And it really is as practical as that. Derrick is a volume carry guy. And he is very effective at it.

“So that part was pretty easy, it was just the discipline to make sure that we got him going in games. … And Ryan’s got a great skill set. I mean, that’s what got him drafted in the first round. And he’s been through a few different regimes. And it was kind of the perfect timing to be working with Ryan.

Operative word there: Practical.

The question, then, is whether it’s practical to keep Julio Jones and Matt Ryan around. Both are franchise icons, but they’ll carry a combined cap charge of about $64 million for 2021, with Ryan at 36 years old and Jones 32 at the start of next season. The Falcons also have the fourth pick in the draft, which presumably could be used on a quarterback, and a 26-year-old receiver, Calvin Ridley, who’s ready to be a No. 1 and eligible for an extension.

Smith wouldn’t say if he and Ryan, or he and Jones had spoken yet, only that he’d reached out to a number of players in the days after he got the job.

“It’s hard, until we get all the facts, and Terry and I go through the roster and map out, Here’s what we want to do in the short-term, long-term,” Smith said. “Obviously we’ve got to deal with the salary cap that’s here. And there’s some good pieces, but there are gonna be some decisions we’ve got to make going forward that may not affect 2021, but could affect the future, 2022, 2023 and on. That’s going to be a long process before we even get to free agents, figuring out what we want to do with this current roster.”

***

But Smith is excited about that, too. Famous as his family may be, the NFL is where he’s been able to make to his own mark. “When you’re working your way through and you’re saying, Oh, if I get a chance, I’d like to do it this way,” Smith said. “And now here it is.”

And getting here? That’s truly his.

Falcons/Arthur Smith portion of Peter King’s Monday column. 


arthur-smith-falcons-head-coach.jpg

GETTING TO KNOW ARTHUR SMITH

I was like a lot of people who’ve been around new Falcons coach Arthur Smith—I heard about the rising young coach well before I knew who his dad was. But for obvious reasons, as he inched closer to reaching the top of his chosen profession, it increasingly became known that he was the son of FedEx founder Fred Smith (I did eventually figure it out).

Now? Well, now, as part of his place in the coaching carousel, it’s actually become a piece of how he’s introduced. And that’s fine with him. He’s proud to be his dad’s son.

But in turning over rocks the last couple weeks, I got an interesting take on all this from a team executive who interviewed him, as part of explanation on how his name got so hot. While Smith, to be sure, showed the sort of intelligence an entrepreneurial visionary’s offspring might, he also had a reputation for carrying a work ethic and passion for the game that you might not expect from a guy who, if we’re being honest, would be probably be O.K. in life without sitting in dark rooms at an ungodly hours watching football players on tape.

So when Smith and I talked the other day, that’s where we started.

“It was probably at the end of my high school career,” said Smith, who went to Georgetown Prep in D.C. and went on to play at North Carolina. “I certainly have other interests and I’m very curious about other industries, other things that I could have seen myself doing. But I knew I wanted to play as long as I could, and it was going to end at some point. We all want and we all hope to have a Bruce Matthews career. 

“But it’s realistically not going to happen for most. And I always knew I wanted to be involved in football in some way. I think in a lot of ways it gave me an identity that kind of gave me a chance to prove myself, because I think there’s a lot of narratives about that, kind of what you’re saying. I think that people just assume that because of your background that you live a certain way or you have certain values.

“And it couldn’t be …” Smith then paused and continued, “it’s just false, and that’s why I always give everybody the benefit of the doubt to prove who they are, instead of just looking at your background saying, Alright, well, you live in Boston, you must be an a------.’”

We were both laughing at that point. I told him it might be a fair assumption. He kept going, telling the story of how one of his teammates in college was surprised that Smith came off as just one of the guys.

“I was like, What did this dumb--- think? That you were going to get driven in a Bentley to practice?” Smith joked. “It’s a credit to my parents, to my dad. Like I said, he’s a Marine at heart. he served in Vietnam, did two tours. And he went to Yale, but he said the best lessons he ever learned were from the USM, more than he probably did anywhere else in his schooling. So that probably helped.”

Safe to say, just as his dad established an identity for himself on different fronts, Arthur Smith, one of 10 kids, has done the same. A few more nuggets from our conversation …

Smith picked Atlanta, just as Atlanta picked him. The ex-Titans OC had options. Every team with an opening, all seven of them, put in for him. So as much as he did have to win the interview, Smith was also weighing one job against the next, in case he did have to pick between them. And so he made a ton of calls to his connections across the coaching business to identify what would be important to him and find a team that had it.

“Rarely do you get options,” Smith said. “So obviously, it was nice to have options in terms of talking to multiple teams, to kind of see the landscape. I just wanted to know that it was a stable structure. I didn’t care if the team had been there already or not. So that was a big deal, [as was] how collaborative it was going to be with the GM in place or if they were going to hire somebody.”

His background work (and he worked with Atlanta exec Ruston Webster in Tennessee, so there were things he already knew) showed the Falcons to have the sort of sustainable setup he wanted, and the clincher there, really, was the rapport he felt with owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay on his second interview.

Job No. 1 will be, then, building a similar rapport with his GM. Smith and new GM Terry Fontenot, coming over from the Saints, didn’t know each other before this month. That, of course, means they have a lot to do, and it’s starting with the coaches teaching Fontenot and the scouts what they’re looking for schematically, and from each position. Together, Smith and Fontenot will break down their own beliefs and build up one program.

“It’s huge,” Smith said. “The stuff that he values, his grading systems and coming from New Orleans. And stuff that we value as coaches, the type of players we want to fit the schemes we’re going to run. It’s got to be collaborative, it’s got to be open and there’s got to be compromise, which I’m very confident Terry and I will do. I love this experience that he’s bringing. We have to sit down with his staff and have some long, long meetings and make sure everybody is on the same page and everybody’s opinion is heard. 

One thing that’ll be non-negotiable links to why he was such a hot candidate. And that’s building in the flexibility to get the most out of every single player. It happened, notably, with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry in Tennessee—the careers of both took off on Smith’s watch the last two years. 

“In praise of [Titans GM] Jon [Robinson], he kind of set the stage—here’s the kind of team we want to be,” Smith said. “And so that kind of made it easy and it was intentional, to make sure we had to put the players in the right spot to execute that. We were going to be going to heavy and physical because that pointed to their strength. And it really is as practical as that. Derrick is a volume carry guy. And he is very effective at it.

“So that part was pretty easy, it was just the discipline to make sure that we got him going in games. … And Ryan’s got a great skill set. I mean, that’s what got him drafted in the first round. And he’s been through a few different regimes. And it was kind of the perfect timing to be working with Ryan.

Operative word there: Practical.

The question, then, is whether it’s practical to keep Julio Jones and Matt Ryan around. Both are franchise icons, but they’ll carry a combined cap charge of about $64 million for 2021, with Ryan at 36 years old and Jones 32 at the start of next season. The Falcons also have the fourth pick in the draft, which presumably could be used on a quarterback, and a 26-year-old receiver, Calvin Ridley, who’s ready to be a No. 1 and eligible for an extension.

Smith wouldn’t say if he and Ryan, or he and Jones had spoken yet, only that he’d reached out to a number of players in the days after he got the job.

“It’s hard, until we get all the facts, and Terry and I go through the roster and map out, Here’s what we want to do in the short-term, long-term,” Smith said. “Obviously we’ve got to deal with the salary cap that’s here. And there’s some good pieces, but there are gonna be some decisions we’ve got to make going forward that may not affect 2021, but could affect the future, 2022, 2023 and on. That’s going to be a long process before we even get to free agents, figuring out what we want to do with this current roster.”

***

But Smith is excited about that, too. Famous as his family may be, the NFL is where he’s been able to make to his own mark. “When you’re working your way through and you’re saying, Oh, if I get a chance, I’d like to do it this way,” Smith said. “And now here it is.”

And getting here? That’s truly his.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Lowndesfalc changed the title to Getting to know Arthur Smith/Albert Breer interview
Just now, falcons007 said:

So Smith like the rapport between AB and Rich McKay which was big factor in picking ATL. 
But but I thought Rich McKay should be run out of town. Banished from getting near to TF and AS. 

Honestly, even though it didn't work out in the end, I liked having Rich McKay between Blank and the team last season.  To me, whatever else you think of McKay, he's a football man.

Blank isn't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, JDaveG said:

Honestly, even though it didn't work out in the end, I liked having Rich McKay between Blank and the team last season.  To me, whatever else you think of McKay, he's a football man.

Blank isn't.

Yep. AB may not get everything and need some one to break it down and also good to have an eye on coaches and GM. Rich McKay is also making himself accountable here. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

Honestly, even though it didn't work out in the end, I liked having Rich McKay between Blank and the team last season.  To me, whatever else you think of McKay, he's a football man.

Blank isn't.

Blank will never let McKay leave flowery branch. He got Artie a whole new stadium, plus he's plugged in on the NFL committee.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

Honestly, even though it didn't work out in the end, I liked having Rich McKay between Blank and the team last season.  To me, whatever else you think of McKay, he's a football man.

Blank isn't.

And credit Blank for understanding that and make the changes that are needed to put up that fire wall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, falcons007 said:

Basically common sense conclusion, not rip everything off for 2021 but will be looking at 2022 and 2023. 

yup. if you look at a lot (not all, but a lot) of "new regimes" in the nfl, the first year is usually an evaluation year of sorts, then the changes come. i can see an entirely different roster by 2023, just won't be this year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...