Arthur Smith

Assessing NFL’s OC Landscape

This offseason showed the turnover that can take place at the offensive coordinator position. As a result of several decisions in January and February, the NFL no longer has an OC who has been in his current role for more than two seasons. Various firings and defections now have the 2022 batch of hires stationed as the longest-tenured OCs.

One of the longest-tenured coordinators in NFL history, Pete Carmichael is no longer with the Saints. The team moved on after 15 seasons, a stay that featured part-time play-calling duties. The Browns canned their four-year non-play-calling OC, Alex Van Pelt, while three-year play-callers Arthur Smith and Shane Waldron are relocating this winter. Brian Callahan‘s five-year gig as the Bengals’ non-play-calling OC booked him a top job.

The recent lean toward offense-oriented HCs took a bit of a hit of a hit this offseason, with five of the eight jobs going to defense-oriented leaders. Callahan, Dave Canales and Jim Harbaugh were the only offense-geared candidates hired during this cycle. But half the NFL will go into this season with a new OC. Following the Seahawks’ decision to hire ex-Washington (and, briefly, Alabama) staffer Ryan Grubb, here is how the NFL’s OC landscape looks:

2022 OC hires

  • Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions*
  • Mike Kafka, New York Giants*
  • Wes Phillips, Minnesota Vikings
  • Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins
  • Adam Stenavich, Green Bay Packers
  • Press Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars*

Although this sextet now comprises the senior wing of offensive coordinators, this still marks each’s first gig as an NFL OC. Three of the six received HC interest this offseason.

Johnson’s status back in Detroit has been one of the offseason’s top storylines and a development the Commanders have not taken especially well. The two-year Lions OC was viewed as the frontrunner for the Washington job for weeks this offseason, and when team brass did not receive word about Johnson’s intent to stay in Detroit (thus, waiting until at least 2025 to make his long-expected HC move) until a Commanders contingent was en route to Detroit for a second interview, a back-and-forth about what exactly broke down took place. Johnson should be expected to remain a high-end HC candidate next year, but Dan Campbell will still have his services for 2024.

Kafka interviewed for the Seahawks’ HC job, and the Giants then blocked him from meeting with the NFC West team about its OC position. Rumblings about Kafka and Brian Daboll no longer being on great terms surfaced this year, with the latter yanking away play-calling duties — given to Kafka ahead of the 2022 season — at points in 2023. Taylor may also be on the hot seat with his team. Doug Pederson gave Taylor the call sheet last season, and Trevor Lawrence did not make the leap many expected. After a collapse left the Jaguars out of the playoffs, the team had begun to look into its offensive situation.

2023 OC hires

  • Jim Bob Cooter, Indianapolis Colts
  • Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets*
  • Mike LaFleur, Los Angeles Rams
  • Joe Lombardi, Denver Broncos
  • Todd Monken, Baltimore Ravens*
  • Matt Nagy, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Drew Petzing, Arizona Cardinals*
  • Brian Schottenheimer, Dallas Cowboys
  • Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans*

Only nine of the 15 OCs hired in 2023 are still with their teams. One (Canales) moved up the ladder, while others were shown the door following that organization canning its head coach. The Eagles were the only team who hired an offensive coordinator last year to fire that staffer (Brian Johnson) after one season. Nick Sirianni fired both his coordinators following a wildly disappointing conclusion.

Hackett may also be drifting into deep water, given what transpired last year in New York. Rumblings of Robert Saleh — who is on the hottest seat among HCs — stripping some of his offensive play-caller’s responsibilities surfaced recently. This marks Hackett’s fourth chance to call plays in the NFL; the second-generation staffer did so for the Bills, Jaguars and Broncos prior to coming to New York. After the 2022 Broncos ranked last in scoring, the ’23 Jets ranked 31st in total offense. Hackett’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers has largely kept him in place, but 2024 may represent a last chance for the embattled coach.

Of this crop, Monken and Slowik were the only ones to receive HC interest. Neither emerged as a frontrunner for a position, though Slowik met with the Commanders twice. The Texans then gave their first-time play-caller a raise to stick around for C.J. Stroud‘s second season. Stroud’s remarkable progress figures to keep Slowik on the HC radar. Monken, who is in his third try as an NFL OC (after gigs in Tampa and Cleveland), just helped Lamar Jackson to his second MVP award. The former national championship-winning OC did not stick the landing — as Jackson struggled against the Chiefs — but he fared well on the whole last season.

Schottenheimer is on his fourth go-round as an OC, while Lombardi is on team No. 3. The latter’s job figures to be more secure, being tied to Sean Payton, compared to what is transpiring in Dallas. With the Cowboys having Mike McCarthy as the rare lame-duck HC, his coordinators probably should not get too comfortable.

2024 OC hires

  • Joe Brady, Buffalo Bills*
  • Liam Coen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
  • Ken Dorsey, Cleveland Browns
  • Luke Getsy, Las Vegas Raiders*
  • Ryan Grubb, Seattle Seahawks*
  • Nick Holz, Tennessee Titans
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Washington Commanders*
  • Klint Kubiak, New Orleans Saints*
  • Brad Idzik, Carolina Panthers
  • Kellen Moore, Philadelphia Eagles*
  • Dan Pitcher, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Zac Robinson, Atlanta Falcons*
  • Greg Roman, Los Angeles Chargers*
  • Arthur Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers*
  • Alex Van Pelt, New England Patriots*
  • Shane Waldron, Chicago Bears*

The 49ers do not employ a traditional OC; 16 of the 31 teams that do recently made a change. Most of the teams to add OCs this year, however, did so without employing play-calling coaches. This naturally raises the stakes for this year’s batch of hires.

Retreads became rather popular. Dorsey, Getsy, Moore, Van Pelt and Waldron were all OCs elsewhere (Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Seattle) last season. Smith will shift from calling the Falcons’ plays to running the show for the Steelers. Dorsey, Getsy and Van Pelt were fired; Moore and Waldron moved on after the Chargers and Seahawks respectively changed HCs. Moore and Smith will be calling plays for a third team; for Moore, this is three OC jobs in three years.

Coen, Kingsbury and Roman are back after a year away. Kingsbury became a popular name on the OC carousel, having coached Caleb Williams last season. This will be his second crack at an NFL play-calling gig, having been the Cardinals’ conductor throughout his HC tenure. This will be Coen’s first shot at calling plays in the pros; he was Sean McVay‘s non-play-calling assistant in 2022. Likely to become the Chargers’ play-caller, Roman will have a rare fourth chance to call plays in the NFL. He held that responsibility under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco; following Harbaugh’s explosive 2015 49ers split, Roman moved to Buffalo and Baltimore to work under non-offense-oriented leaders.

Grubb, Holz, Idzik, Pitcher and Robinson represent this year’s first-timer contingent. Grubb has, however, called plays at the college level. Robinson is the latest McVay staffer to move into a play-calling post; he was a Rams assistant for five years. A host of teams had Robinson on their OC radar, but Raheem Morris brought his former L.A. coworker to Atlanta. Pitcher appeared in a few searches as well, but the Bengals made the expected move — after extending him last year — to give him Callahan’s old job.

* = denotes play-calling coordinator

Latest On Steelers Coaching Staff

With Arthur Smith now in place as offensive coordinator, the Steelers continue to make changes to their offensive staff. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported earlier this week that wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson wouldn’t be back next season. The organization was quick to fill that vacancy, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler later reported that the Steelers were hiring Jets assistant Zach Azzanni for the job.

[RELATED: Steelers Hire Arthur Smith As OC]

While Jackson previously worked alongside Smith when the two were in Tennessee, he couldn’t overcome the underwhelming performance from his WRs corps in 2023. Both George Pickens and Diontae Johnson drew criticism for their lackadaisical play, and since the Steelers aren’t completely revamping their offensive staff, it sounds like part of blame has been attributed to the veteran coach.

So, the team will turn to Azzanni to help revamp the receivers room. The 47-year-old coach has had multiple stops as a WRs coach, including stints with the Bears, Broncos, and Jets. During his five years in Denver, he was tasked with the development of Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.

The Steelers have also added former Chargers assistant Tom Arth as their new QB coach, per Dulac. The team has since announced the move. There were reports from earlier this week that Mike Sullivan would be retaining his job as Steelers QBs coach. That didn’t end up coming to fruition, but it sounds like Sullivan is expected to stick around Pittsburgh in a different role. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston reports that the team has also let go of assistant quarterbacks coach David Corley.

Arth was most recently the passing game specialist for Brandon Staley in Los Angeles, where he worked extensively with Justin Herbert for two years. Following a playing career that saw him briefly serve as Peyton Manning‘s backup in Indianapolis, Arth served as the head coach at John Carroll, Chattanooga, and Akron.

Sullivan took on the role of co-offensive coordinator (alongside RBs coach Eddie Faulkner) following the firing of Matt Canada back in November. A former offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers and Giants, Sullivan had served as Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks coach since the 2021 season, guiding the team through the transition from Ben Roethlisberger to Kenny Pickett.

Steelers Hire Arthur Smith As OC

Not long after Arthur Smith landed on the radar of the Steelers for their offensive coordinator vacancy, an agreement has been reached. The ex-Falcons head coach is expected to take over as Pittsburgh’s OC, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.

Smith’s three-year run at the helm of the Falcons came to an end on Black Monday after he posted a third consecutive 7-10 record. An inability to maximize the team’s potential at the offensive skill positions played a key role in that decision, but Smith boosted his stock during his previous time as OC of the Titans.

The recently fired HC will now return to a coordinator posting featuring a run-based attack, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac indicating this is expected to be a three-year deal.

During a press conference yesterday, Steelers owner Art Rooney II confirmed the team would likely have its next OC in place in the near future. He added that a clear profile was in place with respect to what Pittsburgh was targeting, given the plans for the offense. Smith was interviewed on Sunday, and that meeting has now produced an agreement.

As Pelissero notes, Smith was on the radar of other teams (although his Steelers summit was his only known interview). Indeed, it had been recently reported that the 41-year-old was likely to land a coordinator gig during the 2024 hiring cycle despite the underwhelming nature of his Atlanta tenure. The Falcons ranked no better than 15th in scoring under Smith, though the team’s struggles can be traced in large part to a lack of consistent high-end play at the quarterback position.

In Pittsburgh, Smith will enter a situation which is not entirely settled under center. 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett remains in place atop the depth chart for now, but an offseason competition for the starting spot should be expected. Mason Rudolph is a pending free agent, but he could find himself on a new Steelers contract, especially if a path exists for him to claim the full-time No. 1 role. Smith will be tasked with developing Pickett or overseeing a transition to a new passer.

Smith spent 10 years on the Titans’ staff, including a pair of seasons (2019-20) as the team’s offensive coordinator. During that time, a ground-heavy approach yielded a top-four showing in both total and scoring offense in 2020. Smith’s HC stock rose to the level that he landed the Falcons gig, but it has obviously taken a hit over the past three campaigns. This opportunity will allow him to rebuild his value on at least a coordinator level.

Matt Canada entered the 2023 season with signficant pressure, and the Steelers made an all-but unprecedented move in firing him midseason. It has been clear for some time that an outside hire would be made, and Pittsburgh spoke with a pair of external candidates (Panthers OC Thomas Brown and Texans QBs coach Jerrod Johnson) before landing on Smith.

With a running back tandem of Najee Harris (who will likely be in place through at least 2025) and Jaylen Warren, Smith will have the pieces in place to continue the run-heavy approach which yielded success late in the year for Pittsburgh. The impact he makes on the team’s offense will be a key factor in determining the Steelers’ ability to at least replicate their run to a wild-card spot in 2024.

Steelers, Arthur Smith Discuss OC Job

Arthur Smith‘s name came up about coordinator jobs this week, though no teams were tied to the three-year Falcons HC just yet. At least one is now.

The Steelers will meet with Smith about their OC opening Sunday,’s Tom Pelissero reports. This marks Smith’s first connection to a team since the Falcons began Black Monday — at 12:01am ET — by firing him. Pittsburgh just saw Smith’s most recent employer interfere with its OC search, and Mike Tomlin will soon gauge the veteran play-caller’s fit for his team. The Steelers are preparing to hire an OC from outside the organization; they have only done this once (Todd Haley, 2012) this century.

Zac Robinson received a Steelers OC interview request, but he has instead committed to the Falcons. When Atlanta chose Raheem Morris over Bill Belichick, an immediate connection linked Robinson to following his recent Rams coworker to Georgia. That came to fruition, with the Falcons hiring the popular OC candidate. The Steelers have also interviewed Panthers OC Thomas Brown and Texans QBs coach Jerrod Johnson.

While Smith’s stock has dropped since he moved to the hot seat in Atlanta, it is not long ago he was an in-demand HC candidate. Essentially the 2021 coaching carousel’s Ben Johnson equivalent, Smith chose the Falcons. He was unable to turn the team around, but even as Atlanta conducted a rebuild effort, Smith immediately had the team at 7-10 in back-to-back seasons despite dead money piling up. The 7-10 mark the Falcons posted in 2023 looked a bit different, considering what they had invested in the team by this point. Two ugly losses — to the Bears and Saints — prompted the Falcons to fire Smith.

Smith, 41, has worked as an NFL play-caller for the past five seasons. His two-year run as Titans OC, replacing Matt LaFleur, commanded extensive interest. The Titans journeyed to the 2019 AFC championship game, re-routing their season after a 2-4 start. Smith was given appropriate credit for reviving Ryan Tannehill‘s career. Tannehill’s 9.6 yards per attempt that season remains tied for eighth all time; only Kurt Warner has bettered that mark in a season since the 1950s. Smith also unleashed Derrick Henry, with both of the bulldozing running back’s rushing titles coming during Smith’s Tennessee play-calling tenure.

The Falcons boasted the NFL’s No. 3-ranked rushing offense in 2022, largely under Marcus Mariota, but struggled consistently to pass during Mariota and Desmond Ridder‘s seasons as the primary quarterback. The Falcons ranked 26th in scoring offense this season. Considering the Steelers are again centering an offseason around Kenny Pickett development, Smith’s recent past with QBs is notable. Given Smith’s experience, however, it would surprise if he did not receive a second chance as a coordinator.

Coaching Notes: Callahan, Browns, Vrabel, Seahawks, Smith, Johnson, Texans, Jets

The Titans ended Brian Callahan‘s five-year stay as a non-play-calling Bengals OC, hiring the veteran assistant as their Mike Vrabel successor. Although Callahan has never been his team’s primary play-caller, he will not give his first Tennessee OC that responsibility. Callahan will call Titans offensive plays, veteran reporter Paul Kuharsky notes. Callahan has spent five years learning from Bengals HC/play-caller Zac Taylor. He also worked under Jon Gruden in 2018 and Gary Kubiak in 2015. Not calling plays in Cincinnati undoubtedly held Callahan back, considering the success the Bengals’ offense generated during Joe Burrow‘s early years.

During a busy day on the coaching carousel, here is the latest from around the league:

  • Duce Staley will land on his feet. The recently dismissed Panthers running backs coach will take the same position with the Browns,’s Mary Kay Cabot reports. The Jets had planned to make Staley an offer as well, but the veteran RBs coach will replace Stump Mitchell in Cleveland. Staley has coached running backs for the past 11 seasons, doing so with the Eagles, Lions and Panthers. The former NFL running back will have a chance to coach Nick Chubb, assuming the perennial Pro Bowler returns from his ACL tear.
  • The Browns are also working to hire one of Nick Saban’s former assistants to replace the other position coach they fired last week. Tommy Rees, who landed the Notre Dame OC job in his 20s and held the same position at Alabama last season, is on the Browns’ radar, The Athletic’s Zac Jackson tweets. A former Chargers assistant, Rees is expected to become the Browns’ tight ends coach. Cleveland dismissed T.C. McCartney last week.
  • Two casualties of this coaching carousel are candidates to land elsewhere soon. Ex-Falcons HC Arthur Smith and recently dismissed Eagles OC Brian Johnson have generated interest around the league, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini. Smith is being monitored as an OC candidate, per Russini, with a handful of teams looking into the three-year Atlanta HC. Prior to Smith’s Falcons tenure, the ex-Titans OC generated widespread interest as a head coach option in 2021. Johnson has not achieved similar status, and Russini does not confirm the one-year Eagles play-caller is on the OC radar. Though, that would not surprise considering Johnson received multiple HC interview requests during this cycle.
  • Mentioned recently as a candidate on the Seahawks‘ radar, Vrabel may be receiving some support from Seattle players. Some Seahawks view Vrabel as the best option for the job, per Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline. Although Vrabel now has three interviews completed or booked, the Seahawks have not yet met with him. They have met with their former DC, Dan Quinn, who was the first name to emerge as the top Pete Carroll successor option. The Dallas DC should still be considered the frontrunner, Pauline adds. Quinn has a second interview scheduled for Friday, but the Seahawks have a few targets set for second meetings this week.
  • The Texans are not bringing back defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes. Lovie Smith hired Cesaire in 2022, whose contract is expiring. DeMeco Ryans‘ club did set a single-season sack record, with 46, which is quite something considering this franchise employed J.J. Watt for nine seasons. A former NFL D-lineman, Cesaire has been a D-line coach in the league since 2020.
  • On the subject of AFC D-line coaches, the Jets are retaining theirs. Aaron Whitecotton‘s contract was set to expire, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, but the New York Post’s Brian Costello notes the team reached an extension agreement Wednesday. Considering the success the Jets have had up front over the past two seasons, it is unsurprising they made a commitment to keep the Robert Saleh lieutenant around. The Jets also interviewed former Titans assistant Tony Dews for their RBs coach job, The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt tweets. Tennessee’s tight ends coach in 2023, Dews worked alongside current Jets staffers Todd Downing and Keith Carter in Tennessee.

Falcons Fire HC Arthur Smith

After Arthur Blank‘s stance on his head coach oscillated for weeks, the Atlanta owner made a decision late Sunday night. The Falcons will move on from Arthur Smith after three seasons,’s Tom Pelissero reports. The Falcons have since announced the move.

Late in the week, Blank was believed to be hoping to keep Smith. But coaches with three straight sub-.500 seasons are rarely retained for a fourth. The Jets will make Robert Saleh an exception; the Falcons will not give Smith a similar mulligan. A third consecutive 7-10 season, as the Buccaneers’ win over the Panthers prevented the Falcons-Saints winner from booking a playoff spot, will lead the offensive-minded HC out of town. Blank announced the firing at 12:01am ET, beginning Black Monday at the earliest possible juncture.

Smith’s tenure becomes the shortest by a Falcons HC since Bobby Petrino left for the Arkansas HC job late in his one-and-done season (2007). Mike Smith lasted seven years; Dan Quinn was in place from 2015-20.

Considering the Falcons closed their season with multiple blowout losses, Smith’s ouster was not difficult to foresee. While the NFC South team made strides on defense, Smith could not turn Desmond Ridder into a reliable quarterback. Blank, Smith and GM Terry Fontenot backed Ridder this offseason, but the 2022 third-round pick struggled frequently. Smith’s reputation as an offense-oriented coach certainly hurt him as Ridder continued to stumble in his first full season as a starter. Smith benched Ridder twice but reinstalled him as the starter to close the season.

Fontenot has not been fired. A Blank statement indicated he and CEO Rich McKay will lead the search for Smith’s replacement; the longtime owner said Fontenot will provide input during the upcoming search. Although Blank had seemingly gone back and forth on Smith in recent weeks, he had reached out to confidants around the league for advice here. The Falcons will shift gears, with a bigger quarterback swing likely ahead.

We have profound respect for coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years,” Blank said in a statement. “He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations. After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”

Blank said in the spring he was eager to see his team build a roster around a rookie-QB contract, but many were skeptical Ridder would justify the organization’s confidence. The team backed the Cincinnati alum throughout the offseason, signing Taylor Heinicke to be a backup while passing on a potential Lamar Jackson offer sheet. The Falcons were not the only team to avoid the soon-to-be two-time MVP, but Blank’s comments on the Ravens superstar were notable considering the push the team made for Deshaun Watson in 2022. Watson appeared all set to waive his no-trade clause to return to his home state, but a Browns $230MM full guarantee changed the equation — and the state of the Falcons’ quarterback situation. Ridder arrived as the No. 74 overall pick the following month.

The Falcons have assembled an intriguing array of skill-position talent during Smith’s tenure, and Pro Football Focus ranked Atlanta’s offensive line sixth going into Week 18. But the supporting pieces did not move the needle much this season. Going 3-for-3 in first-round skill-position investments under Smith, Atlanta made Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson top-10 choices in that span. Each has shown flashes and will be appealing to HC candidates, but the Falcons ranked 26th in scoring offense this season.

Atlanta did not surpass 22 points per game in any of Smith’s three seasons. The team pivoted from a Matt Ryan-guided attack in 2021 to a run-oriented offense around ex-Smith Titans charge Marcus Mariota in 2022. The Mariota season ended up supplying the most effective Smith-run offense, with a ground-geared approach producing a No. 3-ranked rushing attack. Mariota’s aerial limitations prompted Smith to bench him for Ridder with four games remaining last season. Ridder ranks 26th in QBR this year, doing the most to restrain the Falcons and ensure a playoff absence for a sixth straight season.

To be fair, Smith and Fontenot took on a rebuild in 2021. Until the Broncos release Russell Wilson, the Falcons’ $40.5MM dead-money hit from the March 2022 Ryan trade remains the NFL single-player record. Atlanta also took on considerable dead money from the June 2021 Julio Jones trade and October 2022 Deion Jones deal.

Both Joneses affected Atlanta’s cap sheet over multiple years, but with the Ryan dead money off the books this past offseason, the Falcons spent to fortify their defense. Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss trekked to Georgia, and the investments paid off defensively. Atlanta entered Week 18 ranking ninth in scoring defense. The Saints’ 48-17 bashing, which came after a 37-17 Bears romp, dropped the Falcons to 18th. The Falcons hired DC Ryan Nielsen in January 2023; the longtime Saints assistant’s position should certainly be considered tenuous given the Smith news.

Nearly seven years have passed since the Falcons’ infamous 25-point collapse in Super Bowl LI. Blank kept Quinn on for four more seasons, firing him early in the 2020 campaign. The team steadily plummeted from its NFC title perch and has become an also-ran during two historically bad divisional races. That said, a quarterback improvement would provide immediate intrigue given the state of the roster.

With Blank turning 82 this year, it would not surprise to see the veteran owner turn to an experienced HC. Bill Belichick has been connected to every opening thus far, and it would be interesting — given the shape of the defense and the above-referenced pieces on offense — to see if rumors continue on this front. For now, the Falcons will attempt to regroup as Fontenot — who will ride shotgun during this search, perhaps illustrating his own slide to a hot seat — attempts to upgrade the team in the coming months.

Falcons Owner Arthur Blank Exploring HC Options; Bill Belichick On Radar?

5:32pm: Week 18 did not go as planned for the Falcons, with a 48-17 loss marking an emphatic end to the campaign. Given the nature of Atlanta’s finish to the season, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz provides the unsurprising update that this situation is pointing to a Smith dismissal. In such a scenario, the Falcons would join the Panthers as an NFC South squad in need of a new head coach during the upcoming hiring cycle.

8:24am: As of the time of this writing, the job status of Falcons head coach Arthur Smith is murky at best. Over the course of the past two months, we have heard reports suggesting that Smith is likely to get a fourth year on the job in 2024, as well as reports indicating that he is on the hot seat.

At the very least, it appears that owner Arthur Blank is not fully committed to Smith. According to Adam Schefter of, Blank is torn on how he should proceed, and he has “gone back and forth” on the matter (which helps to explain the vacillating reports). In case he does decide to part ways with Smith, Blank has explored what options might be available to him in the upcoming coaching cycle.

Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of also hear that Blank is considering a change, and that the owner has been calling his confidants within the league for advice. Should Atlanta, which is 1-4 over its past five games, defeat the Saints in today’s regular season finale, Rapoport and Pelissero say that Smith would stand a better chance of surviving Black Monday, even if the victory does not propel the club to a playoff spot (in addition to a win over New Orleans, the Falcons need the Panthers to upset the Bucs in order to qualify for a postseason berth). That is in keeping with a report from Albert Breer of just two days ago.

Smith and GM Terry Fontenot inherited a difficult salary cap and roster situation when Blank hired the duo in 2021, and the team has made considerable strides in terms of talent level on both sides of the ball. The problem has been the Falcons’ quarterback play, though Atlanta obviously has not landed a top-tier QB during the Fontenot-Smith partnership (the team’s attempts to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Texans during the 2022 offseason fell just short, which may have been a blessing in disguise). As Rapoport writes, the team will be taking a big swing on a signal-caller in the 2024 offseason regardless of who the head coach is, so perhaps Blank will give Smith — whose offensive acumen he greatly respects — one more shot to see what he can do with a more talented passer.

If Blank hands Smith his walking papers, Bill Belichick would be a legitimate candidate to replace him, per Rapoport and Pelissero. The prevailing opinion is that today’s game will be Belichick’s last as the Patriots’ HC, and his name has come up a great deal in conversations that the duo has had with league sources about the Falcons’ future over the past week (Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, meanwhile, has been beating the Belichick-to-Atlanta drum for some time).

Assuming the Patriots and Belichick do end their relationship, the separation is expected to take weeks to finalize, which could further complicate Blank’s decision. Still, a team that appears to be a quarterback away from legitimate contention may be willing to roll the dice on a 72-year-old head coach, and Belichick, in turn, may believe that Atlanta gives him a real chance to overtake Don Shula for first place on the all-time coaching wins list (assuming the team does, in fact, add a high-end QB).

Staff Rumors: Commanders, Smith, Falcons, Bears, Pierce, Raiders, Giants

Among head coaches, Ron Rivera resides as the only true lock to be fired following Week 18. The Commanders‘ new ownership injects mystery into the upcoming search. Josh Harris has been rumored to be intrigued by a setup in which a football operations president-type figure oversees a GM and head coach, and’s Albert Breer further points to the owner being unlikely to hand the keys to a high-powered HC. Like Bill Belichick, Breer considers Jim Harbaugh an unlikely candidate in Washington. It is not known if Belichick would require personnel control if he ends up elsewhere, but Harbaugh having the leverage of more Michigan extension offers, it is expected the hard-edged HC would need significant input on the personnel front if he were to return to the NFL. So far, the Chargers have been the team most closely linked to luring him back.

Additionally, Breer notes Harris is intrigued by how the Eagles and Ravens’ power structures are set up. The Commanders hired ex-Ravens analytics staffer Eugene Shen as senior VP of football strategy in the fall. While the Eagles lost four staffers to assistant GM roles in 2022, the Ravens have a GM candidate in player personnel director Joe Hortiz. Baltimore’s OC-DC tandem — Todd Monken and Mike Macdonald — is expected to generate HC interest as well.

Going into Week 18, here is the latest from staffs around the NFL:

  • With the Falcons on the doorstep of a third straight 7-10 season, Arthur Smith‘s job status has come up frequently. Vacillating back and forth between being fired or becoming the rare HC to be given a fourth year despite three straight losing seasons, Smith was not exactly given a vote of confidence by Arthur Blank. But the longtime Falcons owner is not believed to be actively seeking changes, per Breer, making it sound like the hope is for Smith and GM Terry Fontenot to show enough to stay on. A one-sided loss to the Saints may well change Blank’s mind. The Falcons can win the NFC South by beating the Saints and the Buccaneers — who also have a coach on the hot seat — losing to the Panthers.
  • Ryan Poles is believed to have a good relationship with new Bears president Kevin Warren, being expected to stay on for a third year as GM. Prior to the Bears‘ rout of the Falcons, Matt Eberflus was linked to being in good standing for a third HC season. While expecting both to stay, Breer notes neither Bears power broker has been assured of a return. Warren has been a wild card in this scenario since he was hired, and the former Big Ten commissioner did not confirm publicly when asked Friday (via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley) if Eberflus would be retained. Eberflus is 10-23 as Bears HC, but the team — which has a rather important quarterback decision to make soon — is 7-5 over its past 12.
  • Raiders leaders Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs would back the retention of interim HC Antonio Pierce, but Mark Davis is believed to be aiming higher. After all, Pierce — who resigned his two-year post as Arizona State DC in 2022 — has far less experience than Raiders DC Patrick Graham. But Pierce’s knowledge of the Raiders’ culture and history does appeal to Davis, Paul Gutierrez of writes, noting these factors matter considerably to the second-generation owner. No team has bumped an interim leader to the full-time post since the Jaguars elevated Doug Marrone in 2017.
  • Giants running backs coach Jeff Nixon is set for a responsibility jump; it will come at the college level. Syracuse hired Nixon as its offensive coordinator Friday. Nixon was in his first season as Giants RBs coach; he had served under Matt Rhule at Baylor and with the Panthers. The Giants hired Nixon last year to replace DeAndre Smith, who left to take the same position with the Colts.

Latest On Falcons HC Arthur Smith

Questions continue to swirl regarding the fate of head coaches around the NFC South. In Atlanta’s case, Arthur Smith‘s job security has appeared to change on a number of occasions recently.

The third-year head coach was first thought to be on the hot seat in November, due in large part to the team’s offensive struggles. Multiple quarterback changes have taken place this year, and 2022 third-rounder Desmond Ridder has not managed to establish himself as a starting-caliber option. In spite of that, a report from last month pointed to Smith being retained for at least one more year.

The Falcons went 7-10 in each of his first two campaigns, and he is on the verge of posting an identical mark in 2023. Atlanta finishes the regular season schedule against New Orleans, the other team with a chance of surpassing the Buccaneers for top spot in the NFC South. Tampa Bay would be required to lose to Carolina for that to be possible, however, and the Falcons cannot claim a wild-card berth.

With Atlanta’s playoff drought likely to extend to seven years, owner Arthur Blank has declined to offer a public commitment for or against retaining Smith. The latter’s job status will likely be influenced by the way in which the Falcons finish the year, but some around the league feel his fate is already sealed. Two general managers told Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post Smith will be fired after the end of the current season.

Three head coaches were let go midseason, and a number of other dismissals are likely to take place on or around Black Monday. It would come as little surprise if Smith were to be let go; the Falcons’ offense has been a sore spot despite a strong offensive line and a sustained investment of draft capital at the skill positions. The team used its top pick on tight end Kyle Pitts in 2021, followed by wideout Drake London in 2022 and running back Bijan Robinson in 2023.

Owing in large part to sub-par play under center, the Falcons rank 26th in the league in scoring (19 points per game). That will no doubt lead to a quarterback pursuit in the offseason, but it could very well prompt a new face being brought in on the sidelines as well. Smith will have at least one more opportunity to stake his claim to the 2024 position on Sunday when the regular season wraps up.

Falcons, HC Arthur Smith Fined For Handling Of Week 7 Injury Report

In Week 7, the Falcons raised eyebrows for the way in which they handled their injury report. Specifically, running back Bijan Robinson was not listed despite feeling unwell the night before the game. That has now resulted in league discipline.

The Falcons have been fined $75K and head coach Arthur Smith another $25K following the NFL’s investigation into the matter. Robinson dressed for the game against the Buccaneers, but he admitted after the contest that he was still battling headaches and an illness. The first-round rookie logged only 11 snaps and touched the ball once, a marked deviation from his usage through much of the rest of the season.

“There’s an inquiry and usually you have to respond with a letter. It wasn’t like a court case, it wasn’t a lot of time spent,” Smith said when speaking on the matter, via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein“Here is how we interpreted it. Here was our intent. Nothing was done to try to game anything like that and I understood their point of view. So lesson learned there.”

With Robinson barely in the gameplan, the Falcons leaned heavily on Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield. The pair combined for 31 carries and 115 yards, while Allgeier added 53 yards on three catches. That production helped Atlanta earn a 16-13 win, and Smith noted the effectiveness of the team’s other options with respect to the decision to keep Robinson sidelined for much of the contest. The Falcons have given Robinson 20 or more touches three times this season, but he has also seen less than 15 touches five times (including Week 7).

That fluctuation is in part a product of Atlanta’s depth at the RB spot and the team’s attempt to avoid overusing the highly-touted Texas alum. Robinson comfortably leads the Falcons in rushing yards with 801, and they rank ninth in the league in overall production on the ground (126 yards per game). In general, the 21-year-old has been a key offensive contributor since Week 7 in terms of usage and playing time.

The NFL has repeatedly levied financial penalties for similar violations of injury/illness reporting. As noted by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2019 saw a number of fines handed down to teams and head coaches for inaccurate injury reports. The Falcons and Smith have now joined the list as they look toward the final three games of the season.