Arthur Smith plans to keep working to motivate the Falcons

072922 Flowery Branch, Ga.: Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith conducts practice during training camp at the Falcons Practice Facility, Friday, July 29, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

072922 Flowery Branch, Ga.: Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith conducts practice during training camp at the Falcons Practice Facility, Friday, July 29, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — With the Falcons eliminated from the playoffs, coach Arthur Smith plans to try to continue to get his players to play hard over the final two games of the season.

The Falcons (5-10) are set to host the Cardinals (4-11) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Both teams have been eliminated from the NFC playoff picture and will play out the string.

“It’s our job; that’s what you’re hired to do,” Smith said. “If you can’t get motivated or you’re not self-motivated, then you’re probably the wrong person for the job.”

The Falcons do not plan to make any wholesale changes down the stretch. They will continue to take a look at rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has started the past two games.

“Certainly, you see examples around the league. You can rationalize a lot of things, and you can find a lot of excuses to not do your best, but that certainly won’t be the case here,” Smith said. “Certainly, not as long as I’m here. That’s just not the way these guys are wired. We’ve got a lot of prideful guys, players and coaches. We’re thankful to have another opportunity to go out there and compete.”

The Falcons don’t want to shortchange the game or the fans.

“We owe it to our fans; we owe it to ourselves, and that’s our charge this week,” Smith said.

With nothing to play for but pride, a drop-off in play would seem reasonable.

“This is an important game for us. We need to play well, and we need to go win,” Smith said. “It’s important to win at home, and it’s important to win regardless of building in the short term. We came up short of our goal. In the next step, we need to finish this out right, we need to win.”

The Falcons would like to close with two wins and reach the 7-10 mark for the second consecutive season before heading into the offseason.

“We’ll have areas to address there, but this week is the most important thing for us professionally and for every guy in that locker room,” Smith said. “That’s the culture that you’re trying to (build), that’s the competition that you have.”

The Falcons, who are 4-8 in 12 one-score games, have played hard all season. Any letup would be clearly detectable.

“You go back and you look at these games, we’ve been close, but obviously, we’ve come up short,” Smith said. “We’re here to win and win this week, and we’ll get the best guys out there.”

The Falcons likely will have a highly active offseason. The new administration will be released from the NFL’s salary-cap jail in the offseason, as it will have nearly $70 million under the projected $232 million salary cap.

The Falcons legally can begin to negotiate with players and their agents at 10 a.m. March 13, two days before the official start of the free-agency signing period.

The Falcons currently hold the sixth pick in the draft. They are projected to take Clemson edge rusher Myles Murphy in the 33rd Team’s mock draft.

The Falcons want to win their remaining two games and are not worried about trying to improve their draft status.

“When you take a job like (general manager) Terry (Fontenot) and I took over, there is precedent,” Smith said. “There are some things that you try to study that people have had success doing. Certainly, Seattle in their first two years with Pete Carroll and John Schneider. I believe they went 7-9 (in each of) those first two years.”

In 2012, Seattle went 11-5 and lost to the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Falcons also have studied how Buffalo has rebuilt under general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott.

“They took a dip knowing what they were trying to do,” Smith said. “They certainly competed, and now they (are) winning.”

The Falcons also have studied the 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.

“There’s usually a common thread there,” Smith said. “They had a plan. Trying to get the right people in there. Trying to build it the right way. You’re competitive. You’re trying to learn what it takes to win in those situations.”

Smith believes the Falcons, who have been undermanned because of the franchise’s salary-cap situation, can lay the foundation for the future by building a winning culture.

“Your objective is to win,” Smith said. “To go in there not to win, that’s disrespectful to this game, to the players in that locker room.”

A higher draft slot is not as important to the Falcons as trying to win.

“There’s also a graveyard of some horrendous draft picks (even though) you’re up there high,” Smith said. “You have to get that right – and some of it is luck. Yeah, if there’s a no-brainer top pick; usually history will tell you that’s not the case.”

Smith advised people to go back and study the drafts.

Some quick recent examples include the New York Jets taking Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick over Justin Fields and Mac Jones in 2021, and the Browns picked Baker Mayfield over Josh Allen, who went to Buffalo in 2018.

“We’re trying to build a culture of winning and winning the right way,” Smith said. “Again, we’ve come in a lot of these close games with a young team. We’ve been charging back, but we haven’t gotten over the hump the last four weeks. We need to do that.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11 Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18 Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 Saints 21, Falcons 18

Dec. 24 Ravens 17, Falcons 9

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD

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