Updated with more information at 8:50 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2021.
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons have chosen offense and youth as the calling cards of their new coach.
The team announced late Friday afternoon that it had agreed to terms with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who at 38 years old has no experience as a head coach.
Atlanta's last full-time hire, Dan Quinn, had a background as a defensive assistant. He was fired after an 0-5 start in his sixth season with the Falcons, and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris completed the 4-12 season as interim coach.
Smith held a virtual interview with the Falcons on Monday, and he also interviewed with the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets. The Jets reached an agreement with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on Thursday night to be their coach.
Smith has worked on Tennessee's staff for 10 seasons, including the past two as offensive coordinator. The Titans finished the 2020 regular season tied for second in the NFL in total yards.
Under Smith's leadership, the Titans finished behind only the Kansas City Chiefs — the reigning Super Bowl champions who at 14-2 have the league's best record this season — in total offense, averaging 396.4 yards per game. They had the NFL's second-best rushing offense as Derrick Henry became only the eighth back to rush for at least 2,000 yards.
The Titans' offensive success, particularly on the ground, may have been especially appealing to the Falcons, who finished ahead of only five teams in rushing this season as they averaged 95.8 ground yards per game.
Atlanta's choice of Smith was applauded by Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown, who wrote on his Twitter account that the coach "Held me accountable from day 1. Always trying to improve. Atlanta got a good one."
Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel congratulated Smith in a statement released by the Titans.
"I want to congratulate Arthur, and his family, on becoming head coach of the Atlanta Falcons," Vrabel said. "Arthur's leadership and the relationships he built with the players and staff led to on-field success. I personally appreciate the dedication and hard work he put in for the Titans and we look forward to seeing his continued success."
The Falcons also are seeking a replacement for general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who along with Quinn was fired on Oct. 11.
Quinn, who was hired Monday as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator, went 43-42 — including just 14-23 since the beginning of the 2018 season — and was 3-2 in two postseason appearances with Atlanta. In the 2016 season, Quinn led the Falcons to only their second Super Bowl appearance, and Atlanta led the New England Patriots by 25 points in the second half before losing in overtime. Atlanta returned to the playoffs the following season but couldn't achieve sustained success.
Smith will take over a team coming off its third consecutive losing season and also dealing with salary cap concerns, and he will face important decisions about the offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan is 35 and 31-year-old wide receiver Julio Jones is coming off a season in which he was hampered by injuries.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has said the team's new coach and GM will be free to make decisions on a possible rebuild that could impact all players, including Ryan and Jones.
One candidate for GM is New Orleans Saints executive Terry Fontenot. The Falcons have had a virtual interview with Fontenot, the Saints' vice president and assistant general manager of pro personnel, but they are unable to conduct an in-person interview while New Orleans is still in the playoffs. The Saints, who won Atlanta's division this season, face another NFC South foe when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Fontenot has been with the Saints for 16 seasons and would become Atlanta's first Black general manager.
The Titans went 11-5 to win the AFC South, their first division title since the 2008 season, but they were eliminated from the playoffs this past Sunday with a 20-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round. It was Tennessee's fewest points of the season.
Smith was one of seven candidates to interview with Atlanta, including Morris, the Falcons defensive coordinator who went 4-7 as their interim coach was Tampa Bay's head coach from 2009 to 2011.
Other offensive coordinators to interview with the Falcons were Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs, Joe Brady of the Carolina Panthers and Nathaniel Hackett of the Green Bay Packers. Saleh and Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles also interviewed for the job.
Smith coached Tennessee's tight ends before his promotion to offensive coordinator. He worked under four head coaches in Nashville after he was hired as a defensive assistant and quality control coach in 2011. He also was an offensive assistant/quality control coach (2012), offensive line/tight ends assistant (2013) and assistant tight ends coach (2014-15). He took over as tight ends coach in 2015.
In 2019, Smith helped the Titans rebound from a 2-4 start to advance to the AFC championship game for the first time in 17 years. He helped the offense gain momentum with quarterback Ryan Tannehill as the starter. Over the final 11 weeks of the 2019 season, Tennessee ranked third in the league in total offense and scoring, and Tannehill was named the league's comeback player of the year.
Smith, a native of Memphis whose father is FedEx founder and CEO Frederick Smith, worked under Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs as Washington's defensive quality control coach for two seasons (2007-08). He spent 2010 as an administrative assistant at Ole Miss before returning to the NFL.
He played offensive guard at North Carolina from 2001 to 2005 before becoming a graduate assistant with the Tar Heels.