The Falcons decided to leave their coaching staff and front office essentially intact after what was by any measure a disappointing 2019. It’s a decision they may come to regret, but for now, it’s how they’ve decided to proceed. The caveat and potential game changer is the added wrinkle that Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay will be taking on a “larger role” in 2020, whatever that means.
McKay is no stranger to football operations. A lawyer by trade, he served as general manager of the Falcons between 2003 and 2008. Before that he was the Buccaneers GM between 1994 and 2003. It’s only natural that you’d want to lean on someone with McKay’s experience and knowledge during a difficult time. The question is to what extent, if any, it will have an effect on the state of the franchise in a way that we’re able to readily discern. Put simply, will we see or be able to measure McKay’s imprint on whatever the front office does moving forward, especially as we gear up for the draft?
Let’s start with the arena in which we’re playing, so to speak. The Falcons have set this up with a certain hierarchy in mind. Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn are going to report directly to McKay. And in turn, McKay will report directly to Arthur Blank. If anything, it sounds like Blank wants McKay to be his proxy such that he stays better informed about moves that are made on the ground as they are happening. It’s a reasonable business strategy.
So it doesn’t seem like McKay has taken on this modified role because Blank is unconvinced in principal. In other words, he’s not looking for a wholesale revamping of what’s already in place. Dimitroff and Quinn will get another shot at doing it their way. But for what it’s worth, if we were to try to nail down McKay’s draft strategy, he has traditionally espoused some version of a “best player available” strategy. He endorsed it in this interview from way back in 2000. But it’s hard to really see that in the drafts he turned in as the Falcons GM, in part because we don’t know what his draft boards looked like to start.
Fundamentally we just need to know if McKay is going to make the Falcons any better or worse at drafting. And unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s any way for us to quantify that. McKay had his fair share of whiffs during his time as the Falcons GM: Jamaal Anderson and Jimmy Williams come to mind. He’s also been focused on getting Mercedes Benz Stadium up and running as well as his senior role within the Competition Committee. Put simply, he’s not been in the scouting trenches recently, nor has he supervised those that have.
At the end of the day, Blank doesn’t appear to have a vision that involves McKay stepping in to immediately displace any of what Dimitroff or Quinn have established. That’d be too invasive a process, too time consuming. It looks like he’s just a security blanket of sorts. He’s a person Blank trusts and one that is likely to retain a role of some sort with the franchise even if the Falcons are forced to move on from Dimitroff and Quinn down the line. Will he be in the draft room? Sure. And will he be part and parcel of the process that precedes the draft? Absolutely. In fact, it’s his management skills that may be his most valuable contribution in this new role. But it isn’t his job to revamp anything in the short-term, nor would he be suited to pull that off within such a restricted time frame.
The bottom line is this: McKay’s bigger role probably won’t affect things in a recognizable way. We may be privy to an anecdote here or there, but if things go according to plan, it will all fly under the radar. Fundamentally that isn’t a bad thing; and it’s how they’ve decided to write it up.