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Bair: Arthur Smith's commitment to in-season development vital to Falcons team in transition

Head coach in 'solution business,' must find ways to make Falcons more competitive in coming weeks 


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Arthur Smith knows the Falcons weren't good enough to beat the Eagles Sunday afternoon. The head coach didn't try to hide that fact, or even sugarcoat it.

"If you make the mistakes we made," Smith said, "you deserve to lose."

The Falcons are not in a position to overcome such obstacles. Given the gravity and volume of mistakes, it's doubtful many, if any, teams could have reversed Sunday's lopsided result. That wasn't all Smith's fault. It was a collective thing.

Smith didn't spend the 21 minutes, 56 seconds of his Monday afternoon press conference wallowing in that fact or over an opportunity lost.


He accepted critical questions and answered them. He truthfully explained why things went awry and was accountable for mistakes big and small he felt were under his control. And yet, even in immediate wake of a disappointing home loss in the season opener, he was already looking forward.

"You have to fix your problems," Smith said. "You're in the solution business. You give a guy an opportunity, and if they can't fix it, you have to do something. You can't sit up here every Sunday and Monday and complain about the same problems. If that happens, shame on me. I have to do something different to help us.

"That's what I signed up for. That's coaching."

That will be important this Falcons team. Please don't forget that they're not a finished product. This 2021 unit was handcuffed by salary-cap issues and previous draft mistakes this regime didn't make. They're also a team searching for improvement, climbing straight uphill in an attempt to steadily get better. Sometimes growth comes in slow, painstaking increments. Sometimes it won't be quick enough to prevent disappointing results.

If the Falcons keep getting better over the course of a season and in between them, they'll reach the level of sustained success they've fallen out of the past three seasons.

Smith can't hit fast forward here. He has to solve the problems in front of him to make this team more competitive now and into the future. Penalties are the obvious first fix heading into a Week 2 contest at Tampa Bay, but better play in the trenches is equally essential. You can't do anything without that, and the Falcons weren't good enough protecting Matt Ryan. They weren't consistent enough creating space in the run game.

On the flip side, the pass rush struggled whether it had blitzing help or not. Smith looked squarely at those issues, and believes they can be remedied.

"All these things are correctable," he said. "We know how we have to play in all three phases. You watch teams who are getting home and affecting the quarterback are usually having a pretty decent day defensively, and vice versa on offense. We need to do a better job of making sure we don't become obvious. When you're [one dimensional], it's going to be a long day. I have to do a better job of coaching to make sure we're in better situations."

Smith is obviously charged with winning games first and foremost. There's also a level of player development expected from his staff over the course of the fall. That will help in games down the road and in making decisions about how to improve this team in the long term.

"The whole name of this game is improvement," Smith said. "You cannot be the same team in Week 1 as you are going into each week as you climb. There will be ebbs and flows, but we have to improve. We have to do it in a hurry this week because we have one hell of a challenge on Sunday down in Tampa.

"This is what you sign up for in the NFL. It's the most competitive league, in my mind, in all of pro sports. You'd better be ready to go on Sunday, and that's every week. If you make the mistakes we made, you deserve to lose. We deserved to lose yesterday."

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