Expectations have never been lower for head coach Arthur Smith and the Atlanta Falcons when it comes to predictions from the national media. USA Today went as far as to predict the Falcons to finish 2-15, worst in the NFL.
Even if a team is in a full rebuild like the Falcons, who are without over $60 million in payroll this year due to dead-cap money going to the likes of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the current personnel still has a job to do.
Head coach Arthur Smith was in no mood to talk about low expectations after his third day of training camp in the Georgia heat.
“Who cares,” Smith answered when asked if he changes anything he does based on outside expectations.
“Do a Google search. Go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out if you want to humor yourself,” said Smith making fun of predictions.
“It’s hard to find good comedy today. Go back and look at predictions if you want real comedy.”
Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot are both in their second year with the Falcons. The term “rebuild” has been nixed from the vocabulary at Flowery Branch the past two seasons.
But by eating $40.5 million of Matt Ryan’s contract this season and playing without over 30% of their payroll on the field, the Falcons accelerated the rebuild by positioning themselves to be players on the free agent market in 2023.
Fontenot and Smith have been bargain shoppers the past two seasons. The Falcons haven’t committed any money to a free agent beyond this season, including quarterback Marcus Mariota who got a two-year deal from the Falcons.
He has just $2 million in dead cap money if they Falcons waive him next season, a drop in the bucket compared to the $40.5 they took on from Matt Ryan this year.
The Falcons are handicapped this season, make no mistake about it, but they’ve set themselves up nicely to begin the rebuild in earnest in 2023.
Until then though, coaches and players are professionals, and they’ll be giving everything they have on the field.
And Arthur Smith doesn’t want to hear otherwise.