For the first time since the 2015 offseason, the Atlanta Falcons will be conducting interviews for a new head coaching candidate. They will also be looking for a new general manager to lead the front office for the first time since 2008. With open vacancies at both high level positions, the Falcons will have a slew of candidates to interview following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season.
Team owner Arthur Blank appeared on the latest episode of Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter’s podcast “Huddle and Flow,” and he promised that the team would be interviewing a number of diverse candidates this offseason.
“We will be very intentional about making sure the candidate pool is rich with diverse candidates,” announced Blank, “Beyond that we’re going to interview everybody as though they are the same color. Whatever color you want to pick — red, blue, green, black, white, I don’t really care. We’re going to look for the very best person. I’m never going to put myself in a position, or our organization or that one person in position where they’re going to feel in any way, shape or form that they got the job because of the color of their skin. That’s doing them a huge disservice and that’s the wrong message to send.”
Atlanta’s interim head coach right now, Raheem Morris, is one of five current minority head coaches in the league. When he took over the role for the departed Dan Quinn after Week 5, Blank joked that Morris would be a candidate to have the interim tag removed if he went 11-0 to finish the season (he’s 3-1 since taking over).
Blank was pressed about that facetious comment, and was asked if this was something that should be joked about given the lack of diversity in the current NFL coaching pool.
“The reality is, in all of our businesses and me personally, I am colorblind,” Blank responded, “I would have made that same comment no matter who the interim coach would have been. I don’t think we should make a head coach selection or a GM selection based on the color of somebody’s skin.”
“Raheem will be looked at as any other coach will be. I’ve known him for a long time, I think he’s a good guy. I think he’s got a lot of credentials. He’s not the same man he was when he was 32 and became a head coach. 12 years later he’s matured a good bit. Thirty-two, it’s hard to be a head coach in the NFL. It’s not impossible but it’s hard to do. 12 years later, I think he’s had a lot of great experiences and I think he’s learned a lot and I wish him all the success he could possibly have, for his benefit and for our benefit.”
Morris, of course, was at one point the youngest head coach in the league in 2009, taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job. He was dismissed from that role after three seasons, in which he went 17-31.
When asked what he’s looking for in his next head coach and general manager, Blank immediately cited the importance of “living our culture” and being the best at what they do, starting with having a vision for the roster as well as being top personnel evaluators.
Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been a popular name discussed among the fanbase as being Quinn’s potential long term successor. He would potentially be the first minority head coach hired by the Falcons in franchise history (not counting interim coaches of course).
ESPN’s Louis Riddick is a popular name thrown around in discussing Atlanta’s GM vacancy. He would potentially be the first minority executive in franchise history.
In addition to talking about the importance of diversity, Blank also defended his decision to keep Quinn and Dimitroff after a second consecutive 7-9 season in 2019, saying he had no reason to believe that the 6-2 second half of last season wouldn’t carry over into 2020.
However, in rectifying that decision by making the call to replace both men this year, Blank said it was important not to be “tone deaf” when it comes to the fanbase and that sometimes “different voices need to be heard” despite past success.
You can listen to the entire “Huddle and Flow” podcast, featuring Arthur blank, here.