Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith doesn’t care how the team gets there, he just wants to win. Smith scoffed at a question about Drake London’s zero-catch performance in Week 1, saying, “Let the fantasy guys worry about that.”
London was targeted just once in the team’s 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. He was unable to haul in the target and finished with zero catches on the day. When asked about London’s production, Smith brushed off the idea, saying the only thing the team cares about is winning the game.
To be fair, the Falcons did win the contest. It’s tough to argue against the team’s strategy in this particular instance. They won the game and it wasn’t particularly close.
But Smith’s answer is frustrating for a number of reasons. Yes, the Falcons won, but it’s still fair to ask about London’s usage. London looked like a potential future star after a promising rookie season. He’s the type of player the team should scheme plays around. Even in a game where the Falcons passed just 18 times, London should be a bigger part of the game plan. Even quarterback Desmond Ridder finished with a catch. Sure, it occurred an a tipped ball he threw, but it’s tough to overlook when a quarterback has more catches than a No. 1 wide receiver.
Smith could have explained why that happened. He could have said the team felt good about the running game and felt it didn’t need to air it out. He could have said London will have plenty of opportunities in the future. Instead, he took a totally fair question about why the team didn’t utilize the player they took with the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft and turned it into an opportunity to take a dig at fantasy players.
Smith showed last season that he believes the Falcons have the best chance of winning when the team runs the ball well. It’s not a bad strategy. The Falcons’ strength lies in its running backs and offensive line. If games play out the way they did Sunday, the Falcons will likely be content to run with Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier until they are forced to throw.
That’s bound to happen sooner rather than later. The Falcons won’t face a rookie quarterback making his first career start for a bad team every week. Even if the offensive line and running backs are elite, the Falcons will find themselves in plenty of situations where the team has to throw to stay in a game.
That opportunity could come as early as Week 2, when Atlanta will take on the Green Bay Packers. If Green Bay can put points on the board like they did in Week 1, Ridder will likely throw more than 18 times and London will get more targets.
As long as the team keeps winning, London’s production won’t be an issue. Smith can always answer the question by pointing to the scoreboard.
But if losses begin to pile up and London continues to be underutilized, Smith’s willingness to deflect legitimate strategy questions by blaming fantasy football won’t play nearly as well.