Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank hired general manger Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith roughly 13 months ago now, making changes to previously (and relatively) stable positions.
He was not blind to the fact the Falcons on-field product needed work and that there would be an adjustment period as Fontenot and Smith assumed full control and made the disciplined changes required to execute their vision for the franchise.
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Fontenot and Smith recently completed their first season of a multiyear plan to usher in a period of sustained success, which included some growing pains and rough-patch moments. There were also highlights during a 7-10 campaign – the Falcons were 7-2 in one-possession games – that left Blank optimistic about the Falcons immediate and longer-term future.
"I would say they were very successful in their first year," Blank said Wednesday in an interview with AtlantaFalcons.com. "Any time you bring in a new coach and a new GM, particularly at the same time, you go through a bit of a transition. I think that they've taken stock of our roster and our coach has taken serious stock of how he wants to play the game, the players he wants and the schemes he wants in place. We moved significantly in that direction over this last football season, and now he more fully understands who his players are. While working with his coaching staff, we'll see more refinement of that through free agency and the draft."
Blank entered the 2021 campaign with realistic expectations, fully understanding where the team and roster was and where it needed to go. He was encouraged by certain signs, especially the team's resilience and its ability to scrap and win close football games, which showed him Fontenot and Smith are moving the Falcons in the right direction.
"We wanted to be competitive and I think we were competitive," Blank said. "The fact that we were in the playoff hunt, legitimately, through Week 17 is a sign of that and is really pretty amazing. The fact that all seven of the games we won came down to the last possession speaks strongly to the kind of culture [being] established. They know how to play under pressure and understand the way we expect them to perform.
"To me the arrows are all up, and I'm feeling really good about it and about them."
Take a look at some of our favorite images of Matt Ryan and the entire Atlanta Falcons squad from the 2021-22 season.
Blank also thinks a year's experience on the job has provided Fontenot and Smith valuable insight and a deeper knowledge of how the Falcons can make moves that pay significant dividends.
This will be an important spring and summer in that endeavor, where GM and head coach work to fortify the roster with the resources available.
"I'm excited to see how they're going to handle this offseason," Blank said. "We've spent a lot of time talking about free agency. We don't have the final list yet, but we're talking about how active we can be in free agency. We want to sign those players who have produced for us and are important parts of our roster. We want to take care of our own, if you will. We know who they are and how they can produce. We want to do that first and then look at free agency.
"We're also fortunate to have a number of draft picks. I think they more fully understand who we have, what our needs are and what we're going to run. I think that will be more helpful going into next year. I would expect, though I'm not in the business of predicting records, but outside of that I would expect our team to be better next year, more competitive."
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
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Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.