Falcons make cosmetic changes to Rich McKay's title and official duties

Falcons CEO Rich McKay, whose roles with the team over two decades have shifted and changed, will undergo another adjustment to his duties. At least in name.

Owner Arthur Blank announced on Thursday night that McKay will exit "day-to-day football operations" with the team. That same thing occurred with the hiring of G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith in 2008, when McKay's primary duties became working on the construction of the team's current stadium. After the stadium was finished, McKay gradually re-entered football operations.

Most recently, both the head coach and the General Manager reported to McKay. Now, McKay will exit the football side and return to the business side, while also taking control of Blank's MLS team.

"As CEO of AMBSE, McKay oversees the business operations of the Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the shared services functions that support the entire [AMB Sports and Entertainment] portfolio," the team said in a press release. "In the coming weeks he will add direct oversight of Atlanta United, with its CEO, Garth Lagerwey, reporting directly to him. He'll also join the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation board as an associate director. AMBSE President Tim Zulawski and Falcons President Greg Beadles, as well as senior leaders of AMBSE's shared services, will continue to report to him."

The move continues to give McKay considerable authority, while also allowing him to (frankly) avoid the normal accountability that comes with direct and conspicuous involvement in football operations. For most NFL teams, those are the folks who are at risk of termination if the football operations are not deemed to be sufficiently thriving.

"It is hard to quantify the positive things Rich has done to impact our organization over the last 21 years, laying a strong foundation for our football team and getting Mercedes-Benz Stadium built and functioning as one of the best in the world, chief among them," Blank said. "While he'll no longer be involved in day-to-day football operations, Rich's role will broaden in our organization, and I'll continue to trust him with some of the most important work we're engaged in across the Blank Family of Businesses."

It's similar, but not identical, to the shift that likely would have been needed to secure a coach like Bill Belichick, if that's the coach Blank had hoped to hire. (At least one source with knowledge of the dynamics of the organization tells PFT that Blank did indeed want to hire Belichick, at least at one point over the past couple of weeks.) Whatever the impetus for the move with Raheem Morris returning to the team as head coach, McKay now exits the "day-to-day" role and assumes a higher position in the organization, where he continues to serve essentially as Blank's right-hand man.

That dynamic was on display 17 days ago, when McKay literally sat at Blank's right had while the two conducted a lengthy press conference after the firing of coach Arthur Smith.

It's still a win, all told, for McKay. If he was opposed to relinquishing the full entirety of the football operations to Belichick, and if Belichick wanted that type of power, McKay now emerges with ongoing authority over the team, given that the team president reports directly to McKay. But McKay becomes even more insulated from any argument, internal or external, that his employment should be or could be in jeopardy to replacement if/when Blank decides in the future that changes need to be made to the football operations.

Per the team, Morris and G.M. Terry Fontenot will now report directly to Blank.

The change for McKay ultimately appears to be a distinction without a difference. As one source explained it to PFT, McKay wasn't heavily involved in day-to-day football operations, anyway. He essentially bounced around to the various facilities under the AMBSE umbrella, meeting with the leaders of the football operations roughly once per week and receiving updates from the coach and G.M. via a group text chain that included Blank.

And "appears" seems to be the key word. There was a degree of sensitivity to the McKay vs. Belichick storyline that had emerged since Belichick landed on the Falcons' radar screen. If, as a practical matter, McKay didn't have much involvement in day-to-day football operations, it made more sense to officially extricate him from that capacity to avoid questions and scrutiny over his responsibility, and lack of accountability, for any and all perceived or actual failures of the football team.

In the end, the only person deemed accountable for the perceived or actual failures of the last three seasons was Smith. Fontenot remains in place, and McKay slides to official duties and titles that better reflect the realities of his overall job with the organization.

That job nevertheless includes constantly talking to Blank about everything within all of Blank's businesses. So McKay will still maintain significant influence with Blank and, in turn, a high degree of power within the broader organization, including the Falcons. Indeed, he will continue to represent the team in league matters, and he will retain his role as chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee.

Still, McKay avoided being frozen out completely of anything and everything regarding the football team, which Belichick presumably would have wanted, if he had gotten the job. While Blank surely wouldn't have fired McKay to get Belichick, Blank likely would have had to promise Belichick that he would never have had to deal with McKay, directly or indirectly, daily or weekly, now or ever.