The remaining assistant coaches under contract will be available to the new coach to hire.
“The great majority, there’s only a handful of coaches who are not under contract currently for 2016,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “ Obviously, whoever the next head coach is, we will expect that individual to carefully assess our coaching staff, and we have a lot of very fine coaches.
“Whether or not if they all fit with their philosophies and style of the new head coach, only time will tell. I think that’s a decision that the new head coach will make. We certainly will make that staff available to whomever we select.”
Help added: Blank acknowledged that the Falcons have hired Joe Banner as a consultant. He formerly worked with the Eagles and the Browns.
Banner and the search-firm of Korn Ferry will assist through the transition.
“Primarily, we’ll be using our staff within the building,” Blank said. “We have a lot of very talented people and others, who have been through this drill.
“Joe Banner is somebody who has great experience in Philadelphia there and he had an incredible record there with their owner Jeff Lurie and coach (Andy) Reid. He’s very familiar to the Cleveland process and a lot of the more recent candidates.
Blank denied that the announcement that they had hired a search firm before the last game of the season was a distraction to Smith and the team in the regular season finale.
“Korn Ferry has been involved in a number of searches over the last few years,” Blank said. “They can only do one club per year as you might expect. The last two years, they’ve brought two outstanding coaches to the NFL. One to the Texans in Bill O’Brien and one for Kansas City, coach (Andy) Reid.”
Richt on Smith: Georgia coach Mark Richt had become pretty good friends with Mike Smith over the last few years as they coached the two highest-profile football teams in the state. So Richt was saddened to learn that Smith had been dismissed as the head coach the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons’ move came at almost exactly the same time Richt sat down to address media at a news conference for the Belk Bowl at BB&T ballpark in Charlotte.
“I’ve spent time with him and exchanged text messages and things of that nature,” Richt said of Smith. “I’ll reach out to him eventually.”
Richt reserved his feelings about the actual decision. “I don’t think it’s appropriate right now to make any kind of comment,” he said.
Georgia’s coach is not being sought for the Falcons’ position or any other NFL job. But Monday’s developments prompted a Charlotte television reporter to ask Richt if he had any interest coaching at the professional level.
“No, I like coaching college-age guys,” Richt said. “Obviously there’s plenty of competitive juices going on in our league and in the teams we play as far as football is concerned. There’s a lot at stake and all that. So the football part I think is as exciting as anything you could be a part of. But I also like dealing with the young men in this age group and try to be a blessing in their lives as they go through college.”
Ryan will not be involved: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will not be involved in the coaching search, according to Blank.
“We understand the kind of coaching that Matt needs, the offense that he needs, the defense that he needs and special teams,” Blank said. “We are not going to include our players in that process.”
Collaborative search: Shortly after the press conference, Blank, president Rich McKay and general manager Thomas Dimitroff departed through a back room and took an elevator up to Blank's office to commence the search in earnest.
The trio quickly sought permission from five teams, the first steps to setting up interviews.
McKay and Blank will be working together on their fourth coaching search. The previous ones landed Jim More, Bobby Petrino and Mike Smith.
“I felt that Arthur did a fantastic job of kind of leading us through that search process,” McKay said of the Smith search. “We took our time and we needed to find a head coach and a general manager who were going to help first and foremost stabilize the franchise because the franchise was not stable.
“I don’t know that you can give Mike Smith and Thomas enough credit for not just stabilizing the franchise but bringing to it a whole new foundation of where we are. I think we need to look at this search as building from that foundation. We are in a good place. This is a good franchise that has a lot of tools in the shed to work from. This is not the franchise that they came into.”