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Arthur Blank: New Falcons HC/GM will have free reign

In a joint press conference today between Falcons owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay, Blank made it clear that a new head coach and general manager would have essentially free reign over major personnel decisions.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Falcons fans, who just watched the team fall to 0-5 for the first time since 1997 on Sunday afternoon. Later that evening, the news broke that Atlanta would be moving on from both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Then, on Monday afternoon, team owner Arthur Blank and president Rich McKay held a joint press conference to discuss the decision to move on from Quinn/TD and their vision for the future.

There were a ton of notable bits of information in the conference, but the most important might be those involving the ability of the new head coach and general manager to make major—and possibly franchise-changing—personnel moves.

First off, McKay made it clear that the team isn’t planning to have a “fire sale” on their veterans over the remainder of the 2020 season. The reasoning, as mentioned in the tweet above, is that both Blank and McKay want the new regime to have total control over the roster and personnel—including the decision to either keep or trade them for 2021. This control will apparently extend to every player on the roster, most notably including QB Matt Ryan.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard Blank refuse to affirm Ryan’s future in Atlanta. In his statement, Blank clearly wants Ryan to stick around, and spoke quite highly of him and his contributions to the team. But he was careful to make it clear that he wouldn’t be interfering in the decision-making process for the new HC/GM, and Ryan’s future would ultimately be in their hands (and, at least in part, Ryan’s).

Later in the press conference, Blank once again reaffirmed his stance that the new HC/GM would have full control over both the roster and the schematic makeup of the team. He also made it abundantly clear that no players or coaches would necessarily be safe.

This is a remarkably different approach than what we’ve usually seen from Arthur Blank. From his “Falcon for life” comments and insistence that the team address certain things—most recently, the offensive line—Blank has become more hands-on in recent years. In the past, he never would’ve even considered moving on from Matt Ryan or Julio Jones. Those are two franchise pillars who helped pull this team out of mediocrity and into national relevance for a long stretch in the early and mid 2010s.

It now seems that Blank has taken a pretty significant step back, and will be leaving all the decisions about the team’s future to the eventual hires at both head coach and GM. That’s important if you’re looking to attract the top candidates at both spots, even if it might mean parting ways with some of our most beloved players sooner rather than later.

On the note of potential hires, Blank also made it clear that the team would be open to a “non-traditional” hiring sequence.

That doesn’t necessarily tell us much about their plans, but it does give the team additional flexibility. The Falcons won’t need to wait on a specific position before making a move. The possibility remains for a GM hire first—particularly if they’re interested in pursuing someone during the season who isn’t currently employed by an NFL team—but they also won’t be forced to wait to make a move on a top HC if the opportunity arises.

No matter what happens, major changes are coming to this franchise in 2021 and beyond. While Blank left the door open for players like Ryan and Julio to be moved, it’s far more likely that both remain in Atlanta in the short term. But 2-3 years from now? It’s anyone’s guess as to what this team looks like. If the Falcons continue their current trajectory and end up with a top-5 pick, we can’t discount the possibility of a QB addition if the right player is available.