What will Rich McKay’s role be in new-look Falcons’ front office? It depends

Mike Florio
·3 min read

As the Falcons search for a new General Manager, they still have a team president who used to be a General Manager. He claims he’s not interested in encroaching on the job of the next General Manager, unless the next General Manager wants McKay to do so.

McKay answered questions regarding what his role will be as part of an interview with Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney of TheAthletic.com.

“Hey, listen: You’re the G.M.,” McKay will tell the new General Manager. “Whatever [part of the job] you can take, you take. Whatever you can’t take, I’ll help.”

He also said that the two candidates who have been interviewed for the job — former Texans G.M. Rick Smith and current Falcons director of college scouting Anthony Robinson — did not ask about McKay’s role.

“Maybe [others] will,” McKay said.

All of them should, but maybe Smith and Robinson got the sense that, if they hope to be offered the job, they should avoid asking about McKay’s role, since in reality McKay as team president will have whatever role he wants, and he’ll want someone who accepts that fact.

McKay added that he won’t attend draft meetings, but that he will attend important meetings.

“When we have that summary meeting three days before the draft, I’ll be at that meeting,” McKay said. “When we do that at free agency, I’ll be there. My job is just to focus on budgets, support and if it’s a first-time GM, I’m giving him more support.”

What if a first-time G.M. doesn’t want more or any support from a team president who has managed to consistently avoid accountability for the team’s struggles? Will the candidate who may be expected to rebuff that support not get the job? Will the candidate who tries to tiptoe around the question of whether someone with no apparent accountability for the potential failures of the football operations should have any involvement in the football operations not receive an offer?

Here’s the bottom line: Whoever gets the job in Atlanta will have to navigate McKay, just like whoever gets the job in Houston will have to navigate Jack Easterby.

Consider the looming decisions to be made about quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones. The new G.M. won’t have the blanket power to trade either or both of them. Instead, the new G.M. will have to sell McKay and owner Arthur Blank (i.e., McKay) on the moves.

“Give us a plan,” McKay said. “Show us what you want to do and show us why. Show us how this gets us to Ws and make sure you actually execute the plan. At this point, you’re in partnership with the head coach so you’re going to need to create a common vision. The thing about high-priced players is some people look at them as problems and some look at them as assets. I look at them and say we’re fortunate to have them.”

That’s fine, Rich. Then you be the G.M. You figure out how to fix this mess. You do the heavy lifting and the easy stuff and everything in between and be accountable with your job based on how it goes.

Most team presidents stay out of football completely in order to ensure they’ll never be responsible for a season or two (or three) gone sideways. McKay has found a way to be, essentially, a drive-by G.M. emeritus, with no apparent consequence suffered for the mess that the team has become.

Anyone who takes that job needs to do so with eyes wide open about this very important dynamic.

What will Rich McKay’s role be in new-look Falcons’ front office? It depends originally appeared on Pro Football Talk