McKay: Falcons’ future structure to be based on candidates

Falcons president Rich McKay is running the general manager and head coaching search, and owner Arthur Blank will make a decision on the future structure of the organization based on the new hires.

The Falcons’ used a co-team builder approach under Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn since 2015.

From 2008-15, the Falcons had a traditional approach with Dimitroff holding GM powers over the scouting and player-personnel departments.

“The answer will depend on the people,” said McKay, during a virtual interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, his first since the Falcons fired Quinn and Dimitroff on Oct. 11.

“It’s going to depend on who those people are and what their skill-set is. Are they a first-time GM? Are they a veteran GM? Are they a first-time coach? Are they a veteran coach?”

Dimitroff and Mike Smith were both a first-time GM and head coach when each was hired after the 2007 season. Quinn, who was coming off Seattle’s back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, was a hot commodity. He parlayed that into getting control of the final 53-man roster as a first-time head coach.

“We had a different situation with three teams trying to hire him at the same time that we were,” McKay said. “The way we split it up at that point is that we gave Thomas the (90-man roster) and Dan the (53-man roster).”

The Falcons, who have interviewed former Houston general manager Rick Smith and Falcons director of college scouting Anthony Robinson for the GM job, will be open to either approach.

“I don’t know what that answer is,” McKay said. “It will depend on the people and what their strengths are. What they give us as a vision and what they want from a structure standpoint.”

At some point they’ll have to foster a shared vision of the two candidates.

“You want to make sure that you’ve got a commonality of plan and they understand it, there’s communication, but I don’t think you can just dictate the timing,” McKay said.

The Falcons are projected to be $21 million over the salary cap. The new general manager must factor in keeping veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones.

McKay doesn’t believe that will reduce the pool of GM candidates.

“When you’re talking to those candidates, you want to understand from them what their plan is,” McKay said. “What their vision is for all of your roster. Literally, all of your roster. Part of that roster, especially on the high end of that roster, how do view our high-end players? What’s your vision for them? How do they fit? What’s your short-, mid- and long-term plan?”

That tips off that the Falcons are not planning to tear up the roster and start a full rebuild.

“All I’m saying is when it comes to players like that, especially with the caliber that they are, you are going to have that discussion,” McKay said. “We had it back in the day when we were talking to Dan Quinn and he was talking about Matt and Julio then. We’ll probably have it again this time.”

Then the new coach, will have to fit the vision.

“You are trying to understand what their visions are and then you’re trying to let them kind of come together with a joint vision,” McKay said. “That makes it a little different. But it certainly is going to be a part of both processes.”

McKay didn’t want to address whether the team’s talent has been over-rated after 7-9, 7-9 and 4-10 records since the end of the 2017 season.

“That’s a postseason question,” McKay said. “I’m proud of our football team for one thing and that is working their (expletive) off to get ready every week and play a game. I’m as disappointed in the record as (the fans) are.”

The candidates must share their vision on analytics and the six core values that guide all of Blank’s businesses and the family foundation, which are put people first, listen and respond, include everyone, lead by example, innovate continuously and give back to others.

“Thomas did a really good job as general manager driving that,” McKay said. “He created a football analytics department. … It will be up to the GM and the coach as to how much they are going to incorporate that into their daily use. We’re, as an organization, between Dan and Thomas, we were definitely driving toward using a lot of that information.”

McKay doesn’t believe the salary-cap situation will deter the top candidates.

“We like our core players,” McKay said. “We have some players here that are very good players and playing at a very high level. Grady Jarrett was just named to the Pro Bowl last night.

“We have players playing at a high level, and they are getting paid a lot of money, therefore they impact the cap.

The Falcons have most of their draft picks for 2021, which is positive for the new GM.

“I think pick-wise we only have six out of seven,” McKay said. “I think we are going to get between one and three (compensatory) picks. We’ll end up with eight or nine picks.”

The Falcons believe they can work around the cap.

“I’ve seen tight caps,” McKay said. “I’m convince that people view that as something that is maneuverable.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville

2. New York Jets

3. Cincinnati

4. Carolina

5. Falcons

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