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Michael Cunningham: Arthur Smith's narrative for Falcons: 'Doing things the right way'

Michael Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Football

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Arthur Smith is not a fan of narratives. The Falcons coach especially does not like “easy” or “lazy” narratives. Unfortunately for Smith, his team has served up plenty of those. The Falcons were a bad football team in his first season. They are going to be bad again.

That’s my narrative, at least. I’m hardly alone in that belief.

Few outside of Flowery Branch expect the Falcons to win many games in 2022. They finished 7-10 last season after they were 4-12 in 2020, but regression is the popular narrative. After successive salary-cap purges, the Matt Ryan trade debacle and Calvin Ridley’s suspension, there just aren’t enough good players on the roster for the Falcons to be better in 2022.

That narrative could be wrong, of course. More than any other league, the NFL is set up for bad teams to quickly improve. There are a handful of teams you know will be good. There are many teams bunched in the middle, looking for some lucky breaks. The 2021 Bengals were on that list.

The Bengals were 120-1 shots to win the Super Bowl before the season and then nearly did it. Sure, the Bengals were expected to be pretty good (over/under of 9.5), and the Falcons are not (4.5). Yes, Cincinnati has a franchise quarterback, and the Falcons do not. Hey, nobody said building a positive narrative for the Falcons would be easy.

I went to The Branch on Thursday looking for help. Smith said he likes his team. You won’t find many coaches who will say otherwise publicly, but Smith hasn’t been one to go over the top with praise. If he says he likes this group, then there is little reason to doubt his sincerity.

 

What specifically does Smith like about his team?

“They are a great group to work with,” Smith said. “Sorry, I don’t have a deeper meaning. You hope to like the people you work with. I like working with this team.

“We’ve got a lot of good guys in here coming in and doing things the right way. I don’t have some deep, philosophical reading for you.”

It doesn’t have to be deep. This is just sports. If Smith is right that the Falcons are putting in good work, then add that to their positive narrative.

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