Changing Winds

By: JJ Lanier news services

When it was announced the Atlanta Falcons had hired Arthur Smith as their new head coach I immediately thought “‘the guy who wrote Dueling Banjos is still alive…and he’s going to coach the Falcons?”

Ok, so maybe the latter part is a bit of an embellishment, but that is the first Arthur Smith that came to mind.

Even with my knowledge of Smith’s football career limited to his last two years as Tennessee’s Offensive Coordinator, the hire shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise.

Atlanta has a history, particular in recent years, of hiring first time head coaches. While some organizations seemed determined to only hire former head coaches, Smith’s hire will be the fourth consecutive time the Falcons have handed the reigns of their team over to someone with no NFL head coaching experience.

Even when they have gone the “recycled” route, the last two coaches to fall under that category were Jim Mora and Dan Reeves- neither of which were considered bad hires at the time.

Whether that is the best is way for them to proceed or not is completely subjective, but I do give them credit for not falling in to the relationship trap of “oh, I know who they were beforehand, but they’ll be different with me.”

What intrigues me more about the hire is what it might say about the direction the franchise is heading and what exactly the expectations are for Smith.

Typically, when you see a young head coach join a team that has several high-profile players on the backside of their career, you automatically think it’s time to tear down and rebuild.

In Atlanta’s case, bringing in a highly regarded offensive coordinator, combined with an aging quarterback and the fourth overall pick in the draft, is the ideal situation to start moving onto the next phase of the franchise’s future.

However, with Matt Ryan hopefully still having another 2-3 productive years left, and Smith’s record of success in Tennessee, however limited it may be, it wouldn’t shock me if those plans are simmering on the back burner for at least another season.

If the Falcons are trying to make one last push before their franchise quarterback rides off into the sunset, bringing in someone who revived a lesser quarterback’s career isn’t a bad place to start.

If I had to guess, how the Falcons choose to use that fourth pick will give us a pretty good indication of what their plans are, and how much leeway their new head coach is going to received.

Trevor Lawrence won’t be available, and I imagine Justin Fields will be off the board as well, so is Atlanta enamored enough with either Zach Wilson or Trey Lance to draft them that high, knowing they probably won’t see the field for a year or two?

Obviously, there are other aspects to take into consideration when you’re trying to figure out the direction of a football franchise, but none will speak louder than Atlanta drafting a quarterback that early.

Like with any hire there will always be questions- are two years enough to judge how Smith will run a team? Were there better options out there?

Regardless of how you answer you those questions, the hire falls right in line with who the Atlanta Falcons have been. Now it’s just figuring out exactly what that means.