Arthur Blank will pick Falcons’ next coach, with help of Rich McKay

Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank (right) and CEO Rich McKay faced the media during a press conference a day after the announcement of the firing of Arthur Smith.
Miguel Martinez/

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank (right) and CEO Rich McKay faced the media during a press conference a day after the announcement of the firing of Arthur Smith. Miguel Martinez/

The Falcons are back in the coaching-search business.

After three seasons, the franchise elected to fire coach Arthur Smith after he posted a 21-30 record.

The Falcons plan to cast a wide net and take their time to find Smith’s successor.

“At the end of the day, the final decision will be mine, but mine will be in collaboration with others,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said on Monday. “Initially, we’ve begun the process if you will. It doesn’t take long to get going. We’re moving.”

Falcons chief executive officer Rich McKay will assist Blank in the search and general manager Terry Fontenot and other business and foundation executives will also play a role. The Falcons have likely made requests to interview some candidates, but will make those names public upon completion of their interviews.

“But I also want to be clear on this, there is no timetable,” Blank said. “The only timetable is to do this correctly. Take our time. Be thoughtful. Do all of the interviews. Be respectful.”

The Falcons have followed the league’s “Rooney Rule” in the past and plan to do so this time around also.

“Make sure that we have full, diverse slate of candidates that we are considering in every way,” Blank said. “Give each and every one of them the opportunity to express their vision for our football team. Our franchise. The roster. Where we are and where we expect to go. We’ll take as much time as we need and we’ll do it correctly.”

Minnesota defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Washington offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, San Francisco defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris are some of the top African-American candidates this coaching cycle. Morris was the Falcons’ interim coach after Dan Quinn was terminated in 2020.

“I serve on the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) committee for the NFL,” Blank said. “I’ve been involved in some of these changes. The NFL has, by design, kind of slowed the process down. Multiple teams are in the playoffs now, there are different rules about when you can talk to each person.”

Sarah K. Spencer and D. Orlando Ledbetter discuss the Falcons' head coaching search and potential candidates.

Back in 2016, during the Falcons’ march to the Super Bowl, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was interviewed and landed the San Francisco head coaching job.

Last season, both coordinators for the Eagles ended up landing NFL jobs in Indianapolis and Arizona.

“They are very serious and very well thought out (rules),” Blank said. “To make sure the coaches are respected and their teams are respected. ... Make sure that all candidates are getting a fair opportunity to compete for these unique opportunities.”

Blank likes the rules and the team’s process.

“I think the search process that we went through with coach Smith was widely saluted, supported at the league level as being a model for what they’d like to see clubs do and I think we did it well,” Blank said. “We certainly had hard factually reasons why we selected coach Smith. We will take our time and do it as well.”

Blank referenced some advice he received 17 years ago from the late Dan Rooney about correctly doing a coaching search. He noted that the Steelers picked Mike Tomlin after a thorough process.

The Falcons have fallen on hard times. After reaching the divisional round of the playoffs in 2017, the Falcons have posted six consecutive losing seasons.

“Nobody connected to our organization has anything else but the full commitment to getting us to the next level,” Blank said. “Getting us to the championship level. Getting us to where have committed to our fan base where we wanted to be and that’s having an extraordinarily competitive team.

“We’ll do everything we can to invest in that. We’ll put all of our resources on the table. We have an incredible stadium. We have an incredible fan base.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay addressed the media Monday to discuss firing coach Arthur Smith and the ensuing coaching search.

Smith had to play his second season with a league record amount of dead salary-cap space.

“It was not a function of mismanagement before, but was of trying to keep a veteran team and taking a chance on winning a championship,” McKay said. “Then having COVID come in and have the salary cap go down, really kind of caught us. That said, I give them a tremendous amount of credit.”

McKay credited Smith and Fontenot with re-tooling the roster through three drafts and one free-agency period. Blank said the Falcons will be active in free agency this offseason as well.

“We intend to win and compete at the highest levels in 2024,” McKay said. “One of the reasons we made this move is that reason. Part of the reason we think we can do that is the work that Arthur and his staff did. As did Terry and his staff. It was not easy.”

The Falcons were clearly hoping to takeover the NFC South, but Tampa Bay ended up posting their third consecutive division title. The Bucs will host the Eagles in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

“This year we did not achieve what we wanted to achieve,” McKay said. “There are many factors around it. For us, we have to look at the fans and say are we in a place where we think we can compete for a championship?

“Are we going to be too patient or not? In this case, we felt like the change was necessary to make sure that in ‘24 we compete at the highest level.”

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