It wasn’t an easy route for Smith to take over the Falcons’ mess, but he seems to been staying optimistic. Smith joined the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast where he opened up about the transition to Atlanta while speaking with Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan and free-agent linebacker Will Compton.
Smith described the process as a “whirlwind” and still makes several trips back to Nashville where his family lives.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Smith said. “It feels like I’ve been going full throttle since July, which I guess I have. But it’s awesome. The transition has been great. It’s easy because we’re in Nashville. My family is still here and the kids are, as they’re in school. If I have to pop back in at night, it’s easy to get in the car or there are a million flights from Atlanta to Nashville.”
Smith is coming off two great seasons at Tennessee. He led one of the most elite rushing attacks in NFL history featuring Derrick Henry, who became the eighth player in the league to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.
After having to leave his family behind, his first order of business coming to Atlanta was to hire the right coaching staff.
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Dean Pees Reached Out to Arthur Smith First
Former Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who now works under Smith as the Falcons’ new DC, got the job after reaching out to Smith while in retirement.
“He reached out to me,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Retirement is not for me.’ So before I went on the interviews, I called him up and said, ‘Hey, is that what you really want to do?’ He said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ So it was nice because (being) a first-time head coach and calling plays, you need someone experienced on that sideline. So that was huge for us.”
Pees joined the Falcons staff with 47 years of coaching experience under his belt, including 16 years in the NFL. He is one of eight defensive coordinators to ever reach a Super Bowl under two different teams, one in New England and another in Baltimore. In 10 out of 12 seasons as defensive coordinator, Pees’ defense has finished in the top 12.
“He’s the best,” Smith continued. “I feel really fortunate because it alleviates a lot of headaches you’re going to have early on. There’s so much trust that he’s got things covered on that side of the ball. … You don’t feel like you have to micromanage anything that’s going on over there.”
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The Sad Part About Leaving Tennesee, According to Smith
Smith saw the Titans’ 2020 season flash before his eyes when quarterback Ryan Tannehill was intercepted by Ravens corner Marcus Peters during the AFC wild-card game back in January.
Baltimore was up 20-13 and made two first downs to make it official, sending Tennessee home early. Smith didn’t only see the 2020 season in his rearview, he also saw his job.
“There was a sadness when you see the interception,” Smith admitted. “In my gut, I knew I was probably gone too. I was like, ‘Damn, that’s how it ended.’ ”
Despite a sad ending, Smith was credited for turning Tannehill’s career around. Under Smith in 2019, Tannehill won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award and made the Pro Bowl. He continued to excel in2020, posting a passer rating of 106.5, while leading the Titans to an 11-5 finish and playoff appearance.
Between Smith and Pees, the Falcons are in good hands.
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