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'We Have Something to Prove': Falcons Coach Arthur Smith Wants to Win Now

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith is ready to win, and has an urgency to do so…now.

It has been more than a decade since the Atlanta Falcons have required a second [or third] thought about their starting quarterback position.

Matt Ryan Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota

For the past 14 seasons, Matt Ryan has taken the Falcons’ snaps under center, amassing 59,735 passing yards, 367 touchdowns and a league MVP in 2016 — the same year in which he led Atlanta to a berth in Super Bowl LI.

However, Atlanta traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in March in exchange for a 2022 third-round draft pick.

Therefore, the Falcons will feature a new starting quarterback. As such, a great deal of speculation on the identity of that player has begun.

The Falcons moved quickly to add Ryan's possible successor, agreeing to a two-year contract with quarterback Marcus Mariota, who spent 2021 with the Las Vegas Raiders.

With the addition of veteran Marcus Mariota earlier in the offseason, that debate looked to be over before it began. After all, Mariota is familiar with Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith's offensive scheme from their time together with the Tennessee Titans. Still, Atlanta raised a few eyebrows during the 2022 NFL Draft, when they selected Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third-round.

Is there a quarterback controversy brewing in Atlanta? According to Smith, it is more of a competition than a controversy.

“We’ve added competition certainly,” Smith recently told The Athletic. “Marcus [Mariota] being the veteran gives us a chance going forward. As with any position on this team, the best player is going to play, but obviously, Marcus being the vet, that’s the way it’ll go starting out.”

While the Falcons have two more-than-capable options on their roster for 2022, many analysts believe that the team may already be looking to the 2023 NFL Draft to obtain their quarterback of the future. The upcoming draft is expected to be flush with intriguing prospects — such as Alabama’s Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, who is drawing comparisons to Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow.

Smith, however, is clearly not looking beyond 2022.

“This is a waste of your time and my time if you want to talk about ’23,” Smith said.

Why, you may ask?

Simply put, Smith believes in ‘win now’ as opposed to ‘look to the future.’

“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard — that a team would try to not win football games,” Smith said of Atlanta potentially punting on the 2022 season.

Though Atlanta faces an uphill battle to compete for a playoff spot this season, Smith and company seem intent on maximizing their standing on the field. In addition to adding both Mariota and Ridder to their quarterback room, the team also agreed to terms with cornerback Casey Hayward and retained the services of dual-threat offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson and defensive end Grady Jarrett.

Cordarrelle Patterson vs Panthers
Arthur Smith

Despite being focused on the present, Atlanta will understandably have its eyes on the future, as well. However, Smith is not one to take anything for granted. He will not be turning his attention to 2023 until his pursuit of winning in 2022 has concluded. 

“I want to win. I have an urgency to win,” Smith said. “You’re never promised anything. You don’t know what’s going to happen a year from now, and I’m not just talking about this job, I mean with health, in life. I’m not trying to be all philosophical here. But I like the makeup of our team. I like where we’re going. We have a lot of guys who are hungry, guys who are competitive, guys who have one-year deals and feel like they have something to prove. We have something to prove.”

In the final analysis, Smith will take the present-day win any day of the week…and twice on Sunday.