The Atlanta Falcons’ leadership under head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot faces a pivotal challenge, primarily regarding home attendance—a significant factor contributing to their current predicament.
An ESPN report highlights the Falcons’ struggle with home attendance, a sharp contrast to prior seasons. In 2021, they ranked seventh in empty seats during home games among the NFL’s 32 franchises, a marked decline from their 2019 position. Subsequently, in the following seasons of 2021 and 2022, they plummeted further, ending at 7-9 and missing the playoffs.
Amidst a 4-6 start to the ongoing season, the Falcons hold the undesirable distinction of leading the NFL in the highest percentage of vacant seats at home games, despite a stadium capacity of 75,000. This occupancy issue has broader implications, particularly considering the substantial investment in constructing the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, amounting to approximately $2 billion, partially funded by taxpayers.
In an effort to boost attendance, the Falcons employed creative strategies, notably tapping into the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Leveraging this milestone, they invited nearly 60 Atlanta-based hip-hop artists to the recent game against the Saints, resulting in a slightly increased turnout of 70,166, a marginal rise from their average attendance.
However, factors beyond promotions might have contributed to this uptick, possibly including the usual influx of away fans from nearby regions, notably Bayou Country. Despite the Falcons clinching a victory against the Saints, their season stands at 5-6, amidst a struggling NFC South.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder acknowledged the team’s win, although the Falcons’ ongoing challenges with passing and consistent tackling persist. The Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith expressed a sense of the stretch ahead, recognizing the intensity of the remaining six games in the NFL season.
Meanwhile, the Saints, once hopeful with quarterback Derek Carr’s signing, faltered in their recent game against the Falcons, managing only field goals and no touchdowns. Carr’s first-quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Falcons’ safety Jessie Bates further compounded the Saints’ woes.