The Falcons enter the offseason with perhaps the most questions about the team’s future in the last 20 years. The team has plenty of pieces and potential but it is not even clear if the new decision makers will be retooling or rebuilding what is on the roster.
Will the Falcons even be considering a new franchise quarterback potentially the face of the franchise for the next 15 years? No one knows but the decision will fall onto the new general manager and head coach according to team president Rich McKay.
The rumors started up early and the Falcons have been linked in one way or another to nearly a dozen different general manager and head coach candidates. The potential general managers are primarily Black candidates which support Arthur Blank’s promise to look at a more diverse group of possibilities to run the organization. At the very least, the Falcons are rumored to be performing significantly broader due diligence than any team in recent memory.
Albert Breer linked the Falcons to a few candidates: some new and some we have heard about before.
First, is Terry Fontenot, the current Saints (strike one) VP/assistant GM of pro personnel.
Another candidate for the Jets’ job in 2018, Fontenot has steadily risen through the New Orleans organization—and has helped the Saints find the right fits in free agency in captaining the pro side, bringing aboard pieces like Demario Davis and Jared Cook. I’m told he’s got a good shot in Atlanta, and have even heard the idea that he could be paired with Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett there.
Fontenot is one of two Saints personnel men rumored to be up for general manager jobs including former Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. Interestingly, Blank thought he hired Ireland and Bill Parcells back in 2008 before Parcells went to Miami at the last minute. The duo passed on Matt Ryan and instead took Jake Long and Chade Henne.
Regardless, the Saints have frustratingly had some absolutely stunning drafts in recent years. Some of those decision makers should be getting general manager consideration, if only to take away talent from New Orleans.
More problematic is his choice for head coach. Nathaniel Hackett had prior stops as offensive coordinator in Buffalo and Jacksonville, the latter of which he was fired from in 2018. His offenses were not great, primarily successful just running the football. Now he is beneath former Falcons quarterback coach Matt LaFleur in Green Bay.
It is really difficult to be excited about Hackett as a head coach. He was behind Jacksonville’s impressive 2017 season featuring Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles that lead the team into the playoffs but could not repeat that success in 2018. He does not call plays in Green Bay. He has not previously been amongst the top head coaching candidates.
Another name linked to the Falcons? Former Giants general manager Jerry Reese.
Yes, the Giants slumped badly draft-wise at the end of this tenure, but he’s had a lot of good experience as an executive, and knows how to navigate relationships and build a staff. I believe he’ll be under consideration in Atlanta, among other places, and I’m told the league office has given him strong backing when teams with openings have called.
When doing a comparison of Thomas Dimitroff to other general managers a few years back, we used Reese as a “control” candidate as the Giants were consistently pretty average. We found Reese produced very poor drafts and free agent classes. Breer notes Reese is experienced but lacks the excitement that a fresh name like Fontenot.
It is tough to determine Atlanta’s interest in either, however, both Fontenot and Reese have been previously linked to Atlanta. We may not know how serious Atlanta’s interest is until we get into the second round of interviews.