Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
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• The Falcons have their new head coach and general manager under contract, hiring Arthur Smith as coach and Terry Fontenot this week.
Smith was the Titans offensive coordinator the past two seasons and spoke to the team’s website about working with quarterback Matt Ryan.
“Matt’s had a lot of success,” Smith said. “Matt’s the ultimate pro. He’s a great leader and there’s a lot of things he can do. I don’t get into comparisons. Just because we did something with Ryan doesn’t mean that we’re gonna do the same thing with Matt. We’re gonna play to Matt’s strengths just like we tried to play to Ryan’s strengths.”
Smith and Fontenot will be tasked with reviving a Falcons team that has struggled the previous two seasons.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank talked about the Fontenot hire.
“When we started this process we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building. We feel very strongly that we’ve found that individual in Terry Fontenot,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement folding the announcement. “In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgments that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout. Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and the expectations they have to a high level.”
• Atlanta has the fourth overall pick in April’s NFL Draft and Fontenot shared with the Falcons website his vision as G.M.
“In the draft, you’re going to take the best player,” Fontenot said. “You can’t be afraid to continue [to add] at every position. There’s not a position that you’re going to say, ‘Oh, we’re good there, we’re not going to draft there this year.’ That’s just what I believe. … We’re never going to be afraid to take a player at any position and build a strength.”
Could that mean a quarterback to compete or possibly even replace Ryan or stack themselves at wide receiver if Heisman winner wide receiver DeVonta Smith was on the board?
“It’s never a bad thing to add to a strength,” Fontenot said. “You want to get good football players, because it’s a long season. There’s a lot of injuries. A lot of things happen, there’s a lot of challenges. At any position, you want to continue to add competition, and you want to get the best players that fit the makeup standard, that fit the physical talent, that fit the skill set and we have a clear vision for what they’re going to be. You definitely want to take the best player available.”
• Smith’s success as a play-caller in Tennessee was a big part of him getting the head coaching job with the Falcons, and Smith told the media he plans on staying in that role.
“My No. 1 job is to be the head coach of the team, that includes all three phases and every player on the roster,” Smith said. “I understand what my job is, my job is to coach the entire team. Also to do that to call plays and there’s precedence there that it’s been done and done at a high level. So very confident if you hire the right people, it will be a collaborative effort. I will coach the entire team.”
• The Panthers found their new coach last year with the hiring of Matt Rhule and this offseason they added a new general manager to replace the fired Marty Hurney. Seattle Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer was hired to replace Hurney. Owner David Tepper released a statement about the addition of Fitterer.
Dave Tepper: “We went through a thorough process and it was a great final four. We thought Scott was the best fit for the organization.” https://t.co/DkO1Qz3uAK
• Former Panthers standout linebacker Dan Morgan, who now works in the Buffalo Bills front office, gave the Fitterer hire a ringing endorsement.
“He was very helpful to me when I first got there,” Morgan said. “All those guys were really good with me early on, but he took me under his wing when I was new and was willing to let me pick his brain about college scouting and what he did. He’s good at a lot of things, but first and foremost, he’s just a great guy.
“He’s the guy who’s going to light the grill. He’s the guy who’s going to build a fire on the weekends,” Morgan said. “He’s kind of a Mr. Do-It-All, really. Just a fun guy to be around.”
• Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and defensive tackle Derrick Brown were named to the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie team on Tuesday.
Chinn led all NFL rookies with 116 tackles and had two defensive touchdowns. China was also the first Panthers’ player to win back-to-back NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month awards.
Brown ended his rookie campaign with 34 total tackles and two sacks in addition to eight tackles for loss.
• Hurney, who was let go by the Panthers in December, is reported to be the top candidate for the same job with the Washington Football Team. Martin Mayhew and Ryan Cowden were also candidates according to reports, but the Washington Post said on Tuesday Hurney and Washington are working on a deal to finalize Hurney as the team’s new GM. Hurney worked with former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera while in Carolina.
• The Panthers are hiring Tony Sparano Jr. as their assistant offensive line coach according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. Sparano served in the same capacity with the Jaguars the past four seasons, and also spent time with the Dolphins and the Jets.
New Orleans Saints
• The Buccaneers win over the Saints on Sunday night may prove to be the end of an era for a Saints legend as quarterback Drew Brees is reportedly hanging it up and heading to the broadcast booth next fall. While that is what is expected, Brees was non-committal immediately following the loss to Tampa Bay.
“I’m gonna give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things, just like I did last year, and make a decision,” Brees said.
Head coach Sean Payton didn’t want to discuss Brees’ future after the game.
“Listen, I think that is probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “I can’t speak for Drew. Obviously, I would take up all of my time on your question tonight, and I do think that it’s for another press conference. Obviously, he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on. Let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”
• The Saints could be losing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who according to reports is set to interview for the Eagles head coaching job on Wednesday.
Allen has been the Saints defensive coordinator since 2015 and began with New Orleans as a senior defensive assistant before taking over for fired coordinator Rob Ryan in November of that same year.
• According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, reported new Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell will hire Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn as defensive coordinator. Campbell and Glenn worked together for five season in New Orleans. The Lions have not made the Campbell hire official.