Tuesday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons introduced two new hires to the city. General Manager Terry Fontenot and Head Coach Arthur Smith. Fontenot was the former New Orleans Saints’ vice president and assistant general manager in charge of pro personnel. Fontenot, 40, is the first Black general manager in Falcons’ history.
The Falcons signed Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their head coach on Saturday.
“That’s really important, because we haven’t had that diversity at the general manager position,” Blank said. “… I think these young men and other men in the future will have the opportunity to be part of the hiring cycle for other coaches. I think that will certainly help the issue of looking at diverse candidates in a fair and balanced way.”
Blank admitted he spoke with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said he admitted to him that Fontenot would be his heir apparent when he retired.
Fontenot was hired by New Orleans as a marketing intern. He moved to the scouting department and worked his way up from intern to pro scout before he was hired as a assistant GM.
“Eighteen years ago Mickey Loomis pulled in a 22-year old kid,” Fontenot said before pausing to gather his emotions. “… And he really gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Fontenot credited Loomis with contributions to “not just my professional growth but my personal growth.”
The Falcons previously met with former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith, Atlanta director of college scouting Anthony Robinson and two other directors of college scouting, Brad Holmes of the Los Angeles Rams and Morocco Brown of the Indianapolis Colts.
Meanwhile, Arthur Smith was formerly the offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. He inherited an offense that had Ryan Tannehill as a backup, Derrick Henry as an under-utilized running back, and developed wide receivers AJ Brown and Corey Davis into 1,000-yard targets. Also, wiht the losses of Jack Conklin in free agency, and star tackle Taylor Lewan injuring his ACL, the Titans gave up just 25 sacks, 31 less than the team gave up in 2019.
By comparision, Matt Ryan has been sacked 48 and 41 times in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
“We want to be the most professional, unselfish, well-conditioned, toughest, physical football in the league,” Smith said during his press conference.
Tannehill started in 26 games and totaled 6,561 passing yards with 55 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 110.6 passer rating, while completing 67.3 percent of his passes. Tannehill was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career in 2019 and was named the Comeback Player of the Year by both the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers of America.
“Well, we also ran a decent amount of gap schemes, too. We were flexible,” said Smit while explaining his offensive philosphy. “We certainly had a wide zone foundation and we adapted. I think that’s a lot of times that there’s a lot of mythology to it that people, because they come from one system but if you look around, there’s a natural evolution, whether you look at what’s going on in San Francisco to the L.A. Rams to Green Bay Packers and there’s more teams that run it.
I’m just going on connections there. We certainly adapted at Tennessee. We were good with our foundation. When we were a little bit bigger in other spots, I think the evidence will show we did adapt to those, wide-outs or certainly Derrick Henry and we’ll continue to do the same thing here in Atlanta.”
Smith said he is early in his evaluations regarding Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. However, Fontenot said he would not dive into the roster during the press conference.
“Obviously the receivers stress you out. Most teams have only one No. 1 receiver but when you have to go out there and figure out a plan for those receivers, that stresses you out because you can’t double everybody on the field. But again, I don’t want to really get into the roster, but it’s not rocket science to say the Falcons have really good receivers.”
It appears to be the Falcons will have all options on the table as they head into the offseason. Atlanta possesses the 4th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I don’t feel like you’re ever in a position where regardless of what you need to do and the moves you need to make, you are always working your best to get very competitive in the game so you’re always looking to add players with the right makeup and understanding, hey, they can’t all be high-paid free agents and can’t all be top draft picks,” Fontenot said. “We have to hit on these mid to late round picks. We have to hit on these undrafted free agents. We have to hit on these lower-paid players making sure we are in line with the coaches and bringing in good players and we’re going to focus on the details and we’re going to work hard to do that.”
All in all, Arthur Blank believed the connection between Fontenot and Smith would yield positive results. For an owner who is searching for his first Super Bowl title, Blank said the best teams in the NFL have great collaboration at the very top. He believed they really shared all that together and they did it behind the scenes before the Falcons organization discussed the opportunites with both men.
“Terry’s got a great reputation,” said Smith. “I didn’t know Terry personally until this interview process started and Terry and I started talking, and we share the same values and that’s big and I believe it’s the values we all share with the Atlanta Falcons and that’s huge. I can’t wait to work with Terry. Day one, like any relationship it will grow but it will be a collaborative effort. I can’t say enough good things about Terry and the reputation he has.”