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News and Updates on NFC: Arthur Blank, Hayden Hurst, Arthur Smith, Bryce Young, Falcons, and Panthers

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When the Ravens placed the non-exclusive tag on QB Lamar Jackson this past offseason, he was available for any other team to try and make an offer Baltimore wouldn’t have matched. Yet a list of teams made it clear they weren’t going to pursue Jackson, led off by the Falcons. Most of those teams have either fired their coaches, are looking for a new quarterback, or both in Atlanta’s case.

Still, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he was completely on board with former HC Arthur Smith and current GM Terry Fontenot when they eschewed a run at Jackson in favor of betting on QB Desmond Ridder, and says he doesn’t think that was a mistake. 

“It’s easy to say yes given (Jackson’s) year,” Blank said via the team website. “He’s obviously an incredible player, but we did not have the cap space. I think the coaching staff felt – coaching, personnel, all of us – felt collectively, but certainly Coach (Smith) and Terry, that we had an answer in Ridder. A younger player without that kind of contract that would have kept us from actually building the team we wanted to build.”

Falcons CEO Rich McKay discussed the decision to go with Ridder, which Blank said all the team’s top decision-makers were “1,000 percent, without any equivocation,” in support of. 

“They had seen (Ridder) and they liked what they saw,” McKay said. “They saw the progress through all of the practices through the ’22 season. Played four games, and they made the decision that that was the best path to try to win this year.”

Blank went on to list the reasons why he thought the Falcons were set up for success if they could find a quarterback, including the “quality of draft picks on the offensive side” and an “offensive line that is extraordinarily well coached and well prepared.” He made it clear Atlanta plans to be aggressive to go get whoever the new coach and Fontenot want at quarterback. 

“It’s an opportunity to kind of pick their own partner, if you will, or own spouse,” Blank said. “(Someone) who they can grow with, who they can select, however we acquire them. Wherever we acquire their rights, (through the) draft, free agency or whatever it may be.”

Panthers

One of the big selling points the Panthers were using to drive optimism about the team last offseason was the all-star coaching staff assembled under former HC Frank Reich to tutor first-round QB Bryce Young. But things looked better on paper than reality, and the dream team staff dramatically underperformed. Panthers TE Hayden Hurst thinks Young had too many voices in his ear as a rookie. 

“I think there’s just too many opinions. You’re kind of looking for the right answer from everybody. Too much input, which sucks for Bryce,” Hurst said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “I think he kind of had a lot of people in his ear, telling him one thing. He was just looking for (a consistent message).

“When you come from a place like Alabama, Saban’s the king. Whatever he says, goes. And when you’re a 21-year-old kid, you think that is going to be consistent in the NFL,” Hurst added. “And unfortunately for him, I think maybe he was listening to too many people. So it’ll be a good offseason for him, just to kind of get back to his roots. The kid won the Heisman Trophy. … The first overall pick. He’s pretty good.”

For what it’s worth, Young didn’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but he’s in a different position than Hurst as the quarterback. 

“Everyone wants to help, that’s the thing. Everyone’s involved, everyone’s invested. I don’t feel like it was too much,” he said. “I feel like we all want to get coached. We all want to consult others.”

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