just in:Why the Atlanta Hawks terminated mentor Arthur Smith, and what’s….

just in:Why the Atlanta Hawks terminated mentor Arthur Smith and what’s….

ATLANTA — In August, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he would be disappointed if his team was not more competitive in 2023 and didn’t show improvement. What Blank watched throughout the season was far too much of the same.

So Blank decided to make a change, firing coach Arthur Smith after three seasons late Sunday night after a 48-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints with a playoff berth on the line.

Falcons coaching review: Head coach Arthur Smith - The Falcoholic

It was a somewhat quick turn for the typically patient Blank, who gave Jim Mora Jr. three seasons, Mike Smith seven years and Dan Quinn five-plus years. The difference is those three coaches all made the playoffs in their first or second year as head coach.

While Arthur Smith’s situation was different from his three predecessors when he took over because of salary cap constraints, he also never finished a season with a winning record or made the postseason. So Atlanta now embarks on a coaching search.

The one thing the Falcons were during Smith’s tenure was inconsistent. Atlanta never won more than two games in a row under Smith, and both of his last two seasons had at least a three-game losing streak.

After the Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak in December by beating the New Orleans Saints, Smith was asked how to keep the energy up. In some ways, he summed up his tenure in the process.

Consistency, right,” Smith said. “That’s the biggest challenge week to week. For us to take the next step, we have to do that. Be consistent and playing with the same focus and energy going into the last week.”

And much of it comes to quarterback play. Smith had four starting quarterbacks in his three seasons: Matt Ryan in 2021, Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder in 2022 and then Ridder and Taylor Heinicke this season. It’s perhaps the decision to go with Ridder — and then Ridder’s propensity for turnovers and critical mistakes — that ultimately did Smith in.

Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot were hired in an unenviable cap situation and spent two offseasons cleaning it up. This season was the first in which Smith had a roster mostly of players he and Fontenot sought. Improvement didn’t show in the record or at quarterback.

Smith’s playcalling and decision-making also was suspect at times. Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 15, he went with a game plan that was far too conservative against a one-win Panthers team. It was a decision that played a part in Atlanta’s 9-7 loss to the Panthers and put their playoff hopes in peril.

Atlanta had one of the NFL’s easiest schedules and could not take advantage of it. The Falcons lost to the Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Commanders and Tennessee Titans — all teams that finished in the bottom 10.

“When you go about there, there’s been instances in games where we’ve looked obviously good,” offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said. “And there’s been times where we’ve had is



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