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NFL Draft

Falcons Will Have Successful 2021 Season If…

  • The Draft Network
  • July 1, 2021
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We’ve all had those kinds of relationships. The kind where the “get to know you” phase is quick and kindling, and the more you learn about one another the more you get settled in on a commitment. Soon, you’re head over heels and along for a fast ride. The honeymoon phase comes along and it’s magical; it takes you to the mountain top. But then, as time goes by and the starter log loses its flame, you find yourself having doubts. There are still things you like about the person, but it’s clearly not working the way it used to. Then comes the dreaded ending. You put it off for months, maybe even years but eventually one of you does what has to be done.

I imagine that’s how Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank felt about both general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn. Dimitroff and Quinn were a tandem that took the Falcons to the moon. In Quinn’s second year as a head coach with Atlanta, he and Dimotrff built a team that led the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Though they couldn't capture that elusive Lombardi Trophy, it seemed like this duo was special. Then, the Falcons took a step back the following season, and then another step back the year after that. And another after that. But no matter how many steps back the Falcons continued to take, the marriage of ownership and that front office/coaching regime stayed intact—at least as long as it could.

Today, Quinn is no longer Blank’s head coach, and Dimitroff is no longer Blank’s general manager. Blank did finally decide to say those dreaded “we need to talk” words—though I doubt there was any “it’s not you, it’s me” talk. The new duo in town is head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot. Each one of these men has quite the task ahead of them.

For Fontenot, it has been an uphill climb to get his new team under the cap ceiling. The Falcons had their backs against the wall the past few years, and because of this pushed some money down the road that they eventually weren’t even the ones to deal with, as they have been fired. It’s been Fontenot’s job to clean it up.

It’s an uphill climb for Smith because he’s now the one that has to go out and win with a roster that is more in the rebuilding phase than the all-in phase. The Falcons restructured quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract just to help get under the floor, and they also moved on from some veteran players like Takk McKinnley and Alex Mack. They also most recently traded away one of their franchise’s best players in wide receiver Julio Jones.

The goal for the Falcons in 2021 is simply progress—in any way, really. The record really shouldn’t matter as much as Smith getting acclimated as a first-time head coach, Ryan feeling comfortable with him as his play-caller, emphasizing Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley in the new offense, and not being downright embarrassing on defense.

This is a three-to-five-year plan for the Falcons, and they’re just starting. The expectations, results-wise, should be tempered. A sign of a job well done will come in the form of balancing the cap books to be spent in a year or two and establishing a good, young foundation for what Smith can do in a few years.

The Falcons are more likely to finish at the bottom of their division than at the top in 2021, but that’s okay. A good 2021 will come in the form of more than just wins next season.

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