After a disappointing past four seasons, some critics believe the Falcons are in the midst of a rebuilding stage, but Fontenot confirmed that is not the case.
“We understand the team was 4-12 last year, hadn’t won in the last three years… Some people outside looking in would say, ‘hey, you should strip it down and completely go through a whole rebuild. If you know much about myself and where I’m from or much about Arthur Smith and his mindset, rebuilding doesn’t make any sense,” Fontenot told Robert Mays during an appearance on The Athletic Football Show podcast.
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Matt Ryan Is the Guy for Atlanta
Fontenot and Smith went into this year’s draft with a clear vision to build around Matt Ryan and add depth to the defense.
Smith is confident that Ryan still has plenty of juice left in him and that’s why they skipped the “mistake” of taking a quarterback in the draft this year.
“With Matt, I see a really high-quality starting quarterback who’s thrown for 55,000 yards in this league and had an unbelievable experience and is still throwing guys open,” Smith said via Football Morning in America following the draft. “It doesn’t sound absurd anymore to say, ‘Hey, I want to play till I’m 40.’ If he didn’t want to play, that would be a different set of problems. We still may not have taken a quarterback at 4 because soon as you take one, if you take the wrong guy, there’s some bad unintended consequences because right away, it’s like, ‘There’s your quarterback of the future.’ And if you take the wrong guy just because you want to win the press conference tonight, it’s like . . .”
So, instead of taking a QB at No. 4 overall, the Falcons added another weapon in tight end Kyle Pitts for their vetted signal-caller.
In 12 seasons Ryan has completed 4,460-of-6,817 pass attempts for 51,186 yards and 321 touchdowns and has been the only player crowned MVP in Falcons’ history.
With QB whisperer Arthur Smith in charge, Atlanta has a shot at turning things around and becoming playoff contenders, especially if the defense can catch up.
And unlike former head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, Smith and Fontenot are on the same page.
“They hired the wrong guys if they thought we were going to lower expectations, take our time, and rebuild. That’s just not who we are. The expectation is to win now, build for the future, have plans.”
Why Pitts Was the Right Pick Over a QB
If the Falcons drafted a quarterback, he would be sitting for at least two years before getting a starting job. Thus, the Falcons spent their fourth overall pick on the best athlete in the 2021 draft class.
“Kyle is certainly a unique player,” Smith said on the “The Chris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman. “They (Florida) played him all over the place. I was really impressed watching him, the film, what Dan Mullen did and how they used him at Florida. Because usually, you’re pretty skeptical when you see a tight end graded that high and you’re watching the film and doing your due diligence and you realize he’s a very unique player. He can do more than what a traditional tight end can do. We’ve got high expectations for him and he’s got the right mindset.”
The 6-foot-6, 240 pound has rare speed and finished 2020 making 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games last season.