Arthur Smith

Falcons Hire Arthur Smith As Head Coach

Arthur Smith accepted the Falcons’ offer to become their head coach. The Falcons announced Friday afternoon they have hired the Titans offensive coordinator.

After two years as Tennessee’s OC, Smith received widespread interest. Every team with a head coaching vacancy reached out to the young coach for an interview. The Falcons landed him and will move forward with the breakout play-caller in charge.

Tennessee’s tight ends coach prior to being promoted in 2019, Smith will become the second straight Titans OC to make the leap to a head coaching job. The Packers hired Matt LaFleur in 2019, but Smith’s Titans work exceeded his predecessor’s. Ryan Tannehill revived his career under Smith, posting a historic 9.6 yards-per-attempt figure in 2019 and finishing with a 33-7 TD-INT ratio this season. Both years ended with Titans playoff berths, and each involved Derrick Henry rushing championships.

Riding their retooled offense, the Titans made a run to the 2019 AFC championship game. Henry became the first player to win back-to-back rushing titles since LaDainian Tomlinson in the 2000s, and the 2020 rushing champ’s 2,027-yard performance ranks fifth all time. After making just one playoff berth between 2009-18, the Titans went 2-for-2 in postseason qualification during Smith’s two seasons as their OC. Smith, 38, began his NFL coaching career as a low-level assistant in Washington in 2007 but was with the Titans since 2011.

This will mark a change for the Falcons, who have used defensive-oriented head coaches throughout Matt Ryan‘s career. Atlanta hired Mike Smith in 2008 and Dan Quinn in 2015. Smith will now oversee the final chapter of Ryan’s Falcons career. After an MVP season under Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta’s 2016 NFC championship season, Ryan has not made a Pro Bowl since.

The Falcons remain in search of a GM, though former GM Rich McKay played a key role in hiring Smith. Both Atlanta power brokers will now turn their attention to bringing in Thomas Dimitroff‘s successor. The Falcons are believed to be favoring Saints GM Terry Fontenot for that job. This new regime will be tasked with restoring the Falcons to contender status. They fell well off the pace late in Quinn’s tenure, starting 1-7 in 2019 and 0-5 this year.

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2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Falcons Offer Head Coaching Job To Arthur Smith

The Falcons have offered their head coaching position to Arthur Smith, according to sources who spoke with ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini (on Twitter). The Titans’ offensive coordinator, who has been tied to every vacancy in the NFL, could be hours away from making it all official. 

Smith was set to chat with the Lions this week, but that meeting has been called off (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). The Texans, Chargers, and Eagles were also intrigued by the 38-year-old, but they’ll have to look elsewhere. The Jaguars and Jets were also tied to Smith, but they’ve since addressed those openings with Urban Meyer and Robert Saleh, respectively.

Smith’s stock has skyrocketed in recent years, especially after guiding Ryan Tannehill‘s remarkable resurgence. He’s only served as an OC for two years, but the Falcons — and plenty of other clubs — believe that he’s ready to run his own show.

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Arthur Smith Has Second Meeting With Falcons

The Falcons conducted a second interview with Arthur Smith on Wednesday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Of course, they’ll have lots of competition for the Titans’ offensive coordinator, since he’s in the mix for roughly every vacancy in the NFL.

Immediately afterwards, Smith flew to New York to have dinner tonight with Jets officials. Then, on Thursday and Friday, he’ll chat with the Eagles and Lions.

Smith, 38, has seen his stock skyrocket in recent years. After starting his career as a defensive assistant in Washington, he’s spent the last ten years with the Titans. His last two seasons as Tennessee’s OC have garnered the attention of everyone in the league, and he could be on the verge of his first head coaching opportunity.

Ryan Tannehill enjoyed a career resurgence under Smith’s watch. Meanwhile, running back Derrick Henry gave defenses fits when he was at his best. Given Smith’s track record, he could be the Falcons’ No. 1 choice for the job, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

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GM/HC Notes: Colbert, Panthers, Jets, Smith

Here is the latest from the GM/head coach carousels. Five GM vacancies and seven HC openings remain as of Wednesday afternoon.

  • Before making his way to Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert spent many seasons in Detroit. The Lions have been connected to making a push for a Colbert Motor City return, but they have not asked the Steelers for permission to interview him, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. The Steelers gave Colbert an extension last year. After working with the Lions throughout the 1990s as their pro scouting director, Colbert has been with his hometown Steelers since 2000.
  • The Panthers continue to go through second interviews. After meeting with 49ers exec Adam Peters and Titans staffer Monti Ossenfort again this week, Carolina brought back Chiefs assistant player personnel director Ryan Poles and met again with Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer. Poles is one of a few Chiefs execs to receive interest this offseason, while Fitterer has been on the GM interview circuit for a few years. The Seahawks promoted him in September.
  • The Jets finished up Robert Saleh‘s second interview Wednesday but appear set to identify more finalists soon. They want to speak with Titans OC Arthur Smith again, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Jets are not alone in pursuing Smith, who has interviewed for six HC jobs thus far. The Falcons are also high on the second-year OC.
  • Although Brian Daboll has not completed quite as extensive an itinerary as Smith has, he has impressed the Jets. Gang Green is high on the third-year Bills OC, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Daboll met with the Jets on Sunday. He cannot meet with the team in person until the Bills’ season concludes.

Eagles Request Todd Bowles, Arthur Smith Interviews

The Eagles have requested interviews with Todd Bowles and Arthur Smith for their head coaching vacancy (Twitter links via ESPN.com’s Sal Paolantonio and Dan Graziano). They’ll also chat with Robert Saleh, though his dance card is filling up fast.

[RELATED: Eagles Interested In Lincoln Riley]

After much deliberation, the Eagles fired one-time Philadelphia hero Doug Pederson. Now, they’re hitting the ground running in their search, starting with some of this cycle’s hottest names. They’ll also look at some of their current coaches, including assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley. Earlier this week, owner Jeffrey Lurie pegged him as a likely candidate.

Every team without a head coach has asked to chat with Smith. At this point, it would be a shock if the Titans’ offensive coordinator didn’t land one of those jobs. Bowles is also drawing interest, even though his Jets tenure ended with a 24-40 record.

University of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley might also be in the mix, but it’s not immediately clear if he’s willing to interview.

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All 6 Teams With HC Openings To Interview Titans OC Arthur Smith

Well it wouldn’t really be possible for Arthur Smith to be in higher demand right now. All six teams with head coach vacancies either already have or will request to interview the Titans offensive coordinator, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Those six teams, of course, are the Chargers, Jets, Jaguars, Lions, Falcons, and Texans. The Jags and Texans are both in the same division as Smith. Teams can’t prevent an assistant from interviewing for a promotion to head coach, so Smith can make the rounds if he so chooses. Still only 38, Smith has seen his stock take a meteoric rise in league circles the past couple of seasons even though just two years ago he was a tight ends coach who had never called plays before.

Smith joined the Titans as a quality control coach in 2011, and was so highly regarded within the building that he was able to survive multiple head coach regimes. After Matt LaFleur was hired to be the Packers head coach after the 2018 season, Mike Vrabel promoted Smith to offensive coordinator, and the rest is history.

Ryan Tannehill has had a sudden resurgence to become one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks under Smith’s tutelage, and the running game led by Derrick Henry has been unstoppable at times. Whether it’s this year or not, it seems like only a matter of time before Smith lands a head coaching gig and becomes the next young offensive mind to lead a team alongside the likes of Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, and LaFleur.

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Jets, Falcons, Lions To Interview Eric Bieniemy

It’s shaping up to be a busy week for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He’ll conduct virtual interviews with the Lions and Falcons on Monday afternoon, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Meanwhile, the Jets have officially requested an interview of their own.

Head coaching candidates whose teams are in the playoffs aren’t allowed to interview until after wild-card weekend. But, for Bieniemy, there’s a loophole, thanks to the Chiefs’ first-round bye. The same goes for 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who is also slated to meet with the Lions. The Lions’ latest round of interview requests also includes Saints AHC/TE coach Dan Campbell and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.

Saleh, a Dearborn, Michigan native, may be poised for a homecoming. Still, the Lions have a candidates list in the double digits, so he’ll have lots of competition. Bieniemy, of course, is one of the hottest coaches on the block, and he has the offensive acumen the Lions need to get the most out of their talent.

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Lions Interview Marvin Lewis For HC

Thus far, the Lions’ GM search has generated more headlines than their hunt for a new head coach, but their HC pursuit will soon kick into high gear. Detroit started that process by interviewing longtime Bengals HC Marvin Lewis several days ago, as Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report.

[RELATED: Lions to pursue Seahawks GM John Schneider]

Lewis interviewed with the Texans for their HC vacancy last month, so the 62-year-old appears to be firmly back on the NFL radar. He currently serves as the co-defensive coordinator on Herm Edwards‘ staff at Arizona State.

The defensive acumen that he displayed while working as the Ravens’ DC from 1996-01 helped Lewis secure the Cincinnati gig in 2003, a position he held for 16 seasons. Though his 0-7 record in the postseason has garnered plenty of attention and ultimately contributed to Lewis’ ouster, the fact that he got the formerly moribund Bengals to the playoffs seven times during his tenure was in and of itself a major accomplishment.

Detroit is considering a wide variety of candidates for its HC post. Robert Saleh, the current 49ers defensive coordinator, is said to be high atop the team’s wish-list, but the Lions are also considering offensive-minded coaches. Chiefs offensive coordinator and hot commodity Eric Bieniemy is a target, as is Titans OC Arthur Smith.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports that Saleh, Bieniemy, and interim HC Darrell Bevell are expected to interview this week (Twitter link).

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Jets Plan To Fire Adam Gase

The expected firing of Adam Gase is on track to transpire after Week 17, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. While Gase said earlier this week he has not been notified he will be fired, the Jets’ 0-13 start essentially ensured he would not be back.

This will mark Gase’s second ouster in three seasons; the Dolphins fired him after the 2018 season. He has gone 9-22 with the Jets. Although the former successful OC led his team to upset wins over two potential playoff squads and helped the Jets hire GM Joe Douglas, the past two Jets seasons have involved controversy and continued losing.

As far as a replacement goes, the Jets appear to be looking at a wide array of candidates. Current assistants Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC), Matt Eberflus (Colts DC), Don Martindale (Ravens DC), Arthur Smith (Titans OC) and Brandon Staley (Rams DC) are set to be considered. As are college coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Matt Campbell (Iowa State) and Dan Mullen (Florida), according to NFL.com. Harbaugh, a previous Jets candidate, appears a long shot. The former 49ers coach is finalizing an extension to stay at Michigan, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets.

After leading the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season as head coach, Gase has seen his teams miss the past four postseason brackets. In New York, he feuded with previous GM Mike Maccagnan and was consistently connected to dissatisfaction with Le’Veon Bell‘s contract and performance. Two-plus months after cutting Bell, the Jets will move on from Gase. They were prepared to fire Gase earlier this week had the Browns upset not occurred, according to NFL.com.

The Jets already fired Gregg Williams after the polarizing defensive coordinator made a play call that cost the Jets an excellent chance at beating the Raiders. Gase and Williams feuded as well. Jets ownership sought Williams, which helped lead to then-Baylor HC Matt Rhule declining to leave the college ranks in 2019. Rhule ended up in Carolina a year later.

Gase’s Jets offense rarely generated much excitement. The team has struggled to build an offensive line and did not equip Sam Darnold well at the skill positions. As a result, the former No. 3 overall pick has regressed. And during the months in which the Jets were connected to Trevor Lawrence, Darnold frequently landed in trade rumors. As Darnold’s third season concludes, his status is in limbo. The Jets are set to hold the No. 2 overall pick in April and could well look at a quarterback to begin the post-Gase era.

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