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Arthur Blank, Rich McKay detail decision to part ways with Arthur Smith

Falcons owner said difficult decision wasn't a 'snap judgement.'

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Falcons completed a short flight from New Orleans after Sunday's 48-17 loss to the Saints before individuals dispersed and headed home.

Not Arthur Blank and Rich McKay.

The team's owner and its CEO had a stop to make. They met with head coach Arthur Smith for several hours, deep into the night, discussing the good and the bad from his three-year tenure in Atlanta. Blank and McKay were forthright about what they were considering. And after that long conversation and a more private dialogue following it, the Falcons moved forward and into a different direction.

"It was a really good discussion under emotional circumstances after a game and the end of a season," McKay said. "It was very productive. It was the right thing for us to have that exchange and I was proud of the way he handled it."

Blank and McKay provided further details of that meeting, their decision to move on from Smith and several other topics during an 88-minute press conference that marked a transition point for the franchise.

Before we move forward toward the search for another head coach, let's look back at the reasons why this big move was made.

"This year, we did not achieve what we wanted to achieve," McKay said. "There are many factors around it, but we have to look at us and ask if we think we're ready to compete for a championship. Are we going to be too patient?

"We felt, in this case, that change was necessary to make sure that we could compete in 2024 at the highest level."

That was the overarching theme of a tough decision, but it wasn't made in the moments before or after that meeting with Smith.

As Blank said on Monday, it wasn't "a snap judgement."

It was something the Falcons owner and chairman weighed over a prolonged period, after he identified some signs of trouble. He observed. He listened. He watched how others responded. Then he looked at more concrete factors and overall context of a season that didn't work out as planned after the Falcons got right with the salary cap and added significant talent and depth to the roster.

"What's our record against winning teams?" Blank said. "What's our record against losing teams? Our record against losing teams was abysmal, honestly. Coach would also say that, and we lost a bunch of games we probably should not have lost and didn't have to lose."

The Falcons lost to six teams with seven wins or less this season, including two with just one win at the time. That was troubling, among other elements that were starting to tip the scale.

"It was just a number of factors that went into it, and the fact that we ended up where we did after we had a schedule that was really to our favor," Blank said. "I think generally, most people would say we drafted pretty well over three years. Generally, most people would say that our free agency, particularly this last year, which is really the first year that we had cap money to work with, generally would get high grades.

"The gap between achieving and underachieving was much bigger than what I anticipated this year in a variety of ways."

Despite parting with Smith, Blank and McKay praised him several times during their exchange with the press, lauding his work with general manager Terry Fontenot getting the Falcons out of salary-cap struggles while setting the team up for future success. They were impressed by the relationships Smith fostered with the roster and how he never lost the locker room, even in time of distress.

But, after analyzing a major decision from every angle, Blank and McKay came to a hard decision made in the interest of the franchise.

"I feel pained by the decision personally, but I absolutely feel truly at peace about making a decision on behalf of our fans and on behalf of our franchise and our players," Blank said. "… I'm thinking about the future and our responsibility to give them the best environment to create a winning, championship team."

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