Since firing Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff earlier in the season, the Falcons have been incredibly quiet about their head coach and general manager search for 2021. We’ve received precious few clues as to their potential targets at both spots, outside of some of the top names on the market and a few others—like the Saints’ Terry Fontenot. The decision carries a tremendous amount of weight, so naturally fans and analysts are latching on to any crumbs of information they can get.
We heard some more whispers today about Atlanta’s search via NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. Appearing on the Real Mattlanta Podcast with 680 The Fan’s Matt Chernoff, Wyche revealed that he believes the Falcons are likely to go the more traditional route in their search by hiring the GM before the HC. In terms of names, Wyche mentioned former Texans GM Rick Smith, Saints assistant GM Terry Fontenot, and former Falcon Louis Riddick.
The one notable exception Wyche mentioned was if the Falcons elected to keep Raheem Morris. He said that Arthur Blank has a strong connection and very good working relationship with Morris and probably would’ve liked to keep him around, but that ultimately the decision will be based on wins and losses. After a hot start against a weak set of teams, Morris is now 4-3 after being swept by the Saints. It’s hard to see Atlanta sticking with Morris absent a miraculous finish to the season.
The topic then shifted to potential head coaching candidates, and the usual suspects popped up initially. Eric Bieniemy seems to be the consensus top guy, per Wyche, but he expects the Falcons to also seriously pursue Panthers rookie OC Joe Brady and especially Titans OC Arthur Smith. Wyche was very emphatic about Smith as a candidate, and I think we should keep an eye on his name in particular going forward.
Wyche mentioned that Blank isn’t taking a stand on the “offensive vs defensive HC” debate, claiming that he’ll simply hire “the best leader”. I disagree with that stance—I think analytics clearly shows that offensive HCs are much more likely to be successful—but the Falcons will also be taking a close look at 49ers DC Robert Saleh. Wyche also brought up Saints DC Dennis Allen as a potential dark horse candidate, though he didn’t say there was any definitive interest from the team at this point.
Wyche emphasized that the Falcons have worked quietly on their coaching and GM searches in the past, and may actually be targeting more under-the-radar candidates. In terms of college coaches, Lincoln Riley and David Shaw were floated as possibilities—along with Urban Meyer. He seemed to think these were more long-shot options, but that teams would likely be interviewing them.
Throughout the show, Wyche emphasized that the Falcons are planning to interview a diverse and varied set of candidates to make sure they find the right people for the job. At GM, they’ll be looking at a mix of established NFL executives and young visionaries. At HC, they’ll be looking at a long list of names from both sides of the ball and both the NFL and college ranks.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend listening to the episode to hear Wyche’s words directly. None of this is particularly surprising—although it’s notable that Atlanta is reportedly focusing on the GM first—but it helps us form a slightly more coherent picture of the team’s target candidates for both spots.
Who are the coaching and GM candidates you’d prefer? Are you in favor of hiring the GM or the HC first?