Arthur Smith is moving on up. And moving on after a decade with the Tennessee Titans.
The Atlanta Falcons agreed to a deal to make the 38-yard-old their new head coach Friday. He replaces Dan Quinn who went 43-42 over five-plus seasons but was fired after the Falcons started 0-5 in 2020.
Smith becomes the franchise’s fifth assistant during the Titans era (1999-present) to be hired as a head coach and the fourth to get that opportunity from another team. He also is the second offensive coordinator in Mike Vrabel’s three years in charge to get an opportunity to lead an entire team.
“He’s a great coach all the way around,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Everything that you look for in a coach and a leader and a great offensive mind.”
For the most part, former Titans assistants have not had much success as head coaches. The exception is Matt LaFleur, Vrabel’s first offensive coordinator who left after one season and became Green Bay’s head coach in 2019. LaFleur has gone 26-6 in two seasons with the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has regained his MVP form and Green Bay is one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year.
Gregg Williams was the first to make the jump. After 11 seasons with the Titans/Oilers, the last four as defensive coordinator, he became Buffalo’s head coach in 2001. In three seasons he went 17-31 with no playoff appearances. His best year was 2002, when the Bills went 8-8. He also spent half a season as Cleveland’s interim head coach in 2018 and directed that team to five wins in eight games.
Jim Schwartz succeeded Williams as defensive coordinator and spent eight years in that role before the Detroit Lions put him in charge. Schwartz took over a team that was 0-16 the year before he arrived and went 10-6 with a playoff appearance in his third season (2011). That, however, was the only time he produced a winning record, and he was fired following the 2013 season with a 29-51 career record.
Long-time offensive line coach Mike Munchak replaced Jeff Fisher as Tennessee’s head coach in 2011. He held the position for three seasons during which he went 22-26. The Titans went 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs in his first season followed by two losing seasons after he chose to make 2011 first-round draft pick Jake Locker the starting quarterback.
Now, Smith has his chance.
“Arthur’s always done the best job in the job that he's had, hasn't worked telephones and tried to undercut anybody,” current Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He’s always come to work. I have a lot of trust in Arthur as a person, first and foremost. I know he (will) do a fantastic job leading anybody’s team.”