Arthur Smith

Arthur Blank ‘Fascinated’ By Draft’s Top QBs

Falcons owner Arthur Blank referenced the Chiefs’ Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes baton pass in February, when discussing his team’s quarterback situation. Blank appears interested in his franchise traversing such a path.

The Falcons hold their highest draft choice since selecting Matt Ryan 13 years ago, and NBC Sports’ Peter King reports Blank is “fascinated” by this year’s top crop of quarterbacks. The prospect of the Falcons capitalizing on their rare top-five pick to acquire Ryan’s heir apparent has factored into Blank’s thinking here.

[RELATED: Teams Expect Falcons To Draft Kyle Pitts?]

While the longtime Atlanta owner could throw his weight around and insist his new regime go for a quarterback at No. 4 overall, King adds that Blank will not push Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith in a direction. Smith is also believed to be intrigued by this QB class, King notes, but the first-year Falcons HC also believes Ryan still has quality football left. When a report surfaced indicating Smith and Fontenot disagreed on how the team should proceed with the No. 4 pick, Smith was said to prefer drafting a non-quarterback. Fontenot, however, was believed to be leaning closer to the Falcons indeed selecting Ryan’s successor.

Despite a subsequent report indicating Smith and Fontenot came to an understanding on what they will do at 4, Blank and his new GM being linked to QB interest could throw a wrench into this year’s draft. The Falcons are entertaining all options at 4 and have received calls. Should they select a quarterback, not only would this be the first draft ever to begin with four straight QBs being chosen, but the rest of the QB-seeking lot — a list that includes several teams — would be down to one of this year’s top five passers for which to vie. This would apply pressure on the likes of Denver, New England, Washington and Chicago.

The Falcons sent three staffers — assistant college scouting director Dwaune Jones, QBs coach Charles London and passing-game specialist T.J. Yates — to Trey Lance‘s second pro day, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. They also sent the maximum three staffers to Justin Fields‘ second pro day last week. While the 49ers will control which quarterbacks are available for the Falcons at 4, the latter team could follow San Francisco’s QB pick with one of its own.

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Falcons HC, GM Aligned On No. 4 Pick?

It’s no longer a house divided. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are now “aligned” on what to do with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Earlier this week, we heard that Fontenot was pushing for a quarterback. Meanwhile, Smith wanted to stay the course with Matt Ryan. Ryan is on the verge of his 36th birthday, but he’s been durable and fairly steady.

Of course, we don’t know where the Falcons ultimately landed, and we probably won’t know for sure until the draft kicks off on April 29th in Cleveland. The Falcons are in an enviable position — the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers are all expected to tap quarterbacks with the first three picks, which would allow them to take the best non-quarterback in this year’s class. They could also trade down and parlay that pick into a wealth of ammo for 2022 and beyond.

If they resist the urge to take a QB, the Falcons could select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Or, if they stand pat to grab Matt Ryan’s successor, they could come away with Trey Lance — the North Dakota State product who could have more upside than Zach Wilson and Mac Jones (basically, a higher ceiling than any passer not named Trevor Lawrence).

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Falcons GM, HC Split On Drafting QB?

Earlier this morning, we heard that the Falcons were open to moving down from the fourth overall pick. Now, we have some more details on what’s happening inside the building.

Atlanta’s new GM Terry Fontenot apparently favors drafting a quarterback, while new head coach Arthur Smith does not, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported recently, via Evan Birchfield of The Falcoholic. “What I’m hearing is that [Terry] Fontenot is more focused on quarterback, and Arthur Smith believes that Matt Ryan does have two or more years left,” Mortensen said.

While that big split between a GM and head coach in their first year together might not be ideal, it doesn’t sound like the situation has turned toxic or anything. The fact that Atlanta is open to moving the pick would seem to indicate that Smith’s view might be winning out.

He has no real medical history, he hasn’t missed many games in his career and there hasn’t been a big drop off in his play,” Mortensen said of Smith’s view of Ryan. Interestingly, Mortensen also had some info on who the Falcons might pick if Fontenot gets his way.

One thing I do hear though is that if they do go quarterback at No. 4, then Trey Lance is probably the guy,” he said. It sounds like there’s a real possibility that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and Lance go 1-4. Ryan, 36 next month, is signed through the 2023 season.

 Running it back for at least one more cycle with Ryan and Julio Jones, now 32, still seems like the most likely scenario. This will be one of the most interesting dynamics to watch in the lead up to the draft.

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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