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Bair Mail: On Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot and Cordarrelle Patterson

Your questions get answers but a few days before Atlanta's Week 16 clash with the Indianapolis Colts. 

Bair Mail is a space where I answer questions from you all.

Well, I've got one for you.

How many of you have heard of Dominick the Donkey?

That song has been played on a loop in our office this week, with most folks from New England having fond memories of it while those from the South and the West Coast having never heard of it. Where do you fall on this divide? Whether this is new to you or not, it's A. hilarious and B. guaranteed to get stuck in your head. It's catchy as heck.

Hit the play button below and enjoy two-and-a-half minutes of Christmas cheer:

Okay, now on to serious business. I said that we'd address the coaching situation this week, so let's get right to that and other questions about the organization as we get ever closer to the end of the regular season.


Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott. Is there any scenario where Arthur keeps his job but hires a new OC? If he does go do Terry and Nielsen automatically go too? A two-parter, thanks for your insight.

Bair: I predictably got tons and tons of questions about Arthur Smith's job status, with some more, ahem, colorful than others. I thought Will's touched on some key aspects of this layer cake, while also keeping it classy.

Also, I know he asked about Terry Fontenot, but we'll deal with that in the next response.

Smith has been frequently asked about his job status over the last few weeks, following losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers that knocked the Falcons back in the NFC South race where they previously led.

Smith has responded to these queries with a singular message — that it comes with the territory as an NFL head coach — a job he values and is thankful to have.

This is what Smith said about it on Wednesday, after being asked about Falcons owner Arthur Blank's comment in an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting, in which Blank said he'll wait until the season's end to make any decisions about the future course of the franchise.

"This is professional football," Smith said. "You sign up because you want to compete. I am so fortunate. One thing we have here in Atlanta is an unbelievable culture. Taking this job, I could not have a better mentor and boss. …What you want from any kind of leadership team is consistency. That's all we've ever had here. He has been an unbelievable mentor. When you're in pro football, your job is to put yourself out there. And your job is to win. There's nobody who is going to be more frustrated (than me) when you don't. There's nobody who applies more pressure. You embrace that. You love the challenge.

"…Every building is different. … I have one of the greatest setups I think you can have in terms of consistency. It's an unbelievable operation. That's why I love working here."

He's in the solution business and is more concerned about finding solutions and a way out of the difficult spot the Falcons are in with three games remaining.

That's where his focus should be. What comes of the season's last three games could have an impact on Blank's decision and whether the Falcons make a somewhat improbable surge into the playoffs, where they likely need to win out and get decent amounts of help. I will say that he still has great buy-in from the locker room and his staff. That will help them as they try to finish strong.

To answer Will's questions directly, I would assume that, if Smith goes, most or all of his staff would go, too. There's rarely much carryover between staffs, especially at the coordinator level.

And, regarding staff changes or enhancements, that could certainly come after the season. Blank has always been willing to spend on staff and, if the Falcons don't make the postseason, everything will be on the table. Bringing in another offensive mind, maybe enticing them with a "passing-game coordinator" title, could help bring a fresh voice to a creative offense that can be impactful but hasn't often been enough this season.

All this is speculation at this point, but I understand it's a prominent topic of conversation that must be addressed.

Bill Whitten from Killen, Ala.

Scott, there's a lot of press on whether to fire Arthur Smith or not. Shouldn't Terry Fontenot's name be part of that discussion as well?

Bair: That's a fair point to bring up, Bill. The focus has been on the head coach. That's true.

Smith and GM Terry Fontenot were hired together and pride themselves on working well and making collaborative decisions. That has been the case, and the pair have a solid working relationship. I don't like to speculate about jobs, hirings and firings – these are real people with families – but I personally don't believe Smith and Fontenot are a package deal, that one goes if the other goes.

Since we're talking about Fontenot, I think he has done a good job overall in the NFL Draft and an excellent job in free agency, especially when the Falcons had money to spend. I'm of the belief that the Falcons shouldn't move on from anyone at this point, giving this group another year to get it right. Time will tell what comes of all that, though.

Billy Allen from Calhoun, Ga.

Why don't the Falcons use all their talent? Cordarrelle Patterson should be used as flanker and Allgeier and Robinson in the backfield at the same time. Make other teams about who to key on. Stop alternating all these players. Patterson is a big threat when he gets the ball.

Bair: Cordarrelle Patterson has just 45 offensive touches this year. That comes after he had 165 in 2022 and 205 in 2021. Patterson has been hurt this season, but his usage is definitely lower as the ball has spread around to more skill players.

There's no doubt that he's a tough runner and someone who can create big plays in space. He also has breakneck speed but hasn't been as involved in years past. That's certainly due to Bijan Robinson's presence and his ability to do some similar things with the ball in his hands.

We've had lots of usage discussions this year, typically referring to Drake London, Kyle Pitts or Robinson himself. Patterson's workload has been brought up as well, though it's hard to imagine him getting a massive uptick down the stretch. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in the future, considering this is a contract year for the 11th-year veteran.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch for the game against the Indianapolis Colts, presented by Fast Twitch by Gatorade.

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