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Rich McKay could be the key to the Falcons’ 2020 NFL Draft success or failure

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What role will McKay play on draft day?

Annual NFL League Meeting Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images

We welcome our friend and fellow Falcoholic, Eli Kirshtein, a talented Atlanta-based chef and longtime Falcons fan, and his takes on what Rich McKay’s role in the draft might be.

With the impending NFL Draft, The Falcons as an organization have some tough decisions to make. Are they in “win now” mode, or do they still have time to build toward the future?

They will have to consider the ages and performance of the starting QB’s in the NFC South who aren’t named Matt Ryan and ask themselves if this is a better time to stockpile and develop or to go all in. That, compounded with the stark reality that if the Falcons don’t make the playoffs at some level, Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn will probably find themselves turning in their keys to the team facility. This all leaves for a very wide open draft plan.

Dimitroff has proven his willingness to go after whatever player he wants. We don’t need to rehash the Julio Jones trade in 2011, but that will go down as one of the most brazen and frankly outlandish trades to ever have happened in the NFL; fortunately it has worked in the Falcons’ favor.

2011 inclusive, TD has moved up in the draft consistently throughout his tenure. And while he has alluded to potentially moving down in the 2020 draft (which he has suggested about previous drafts as well) there is still a puncher’s chance he may move up in this one as well. There will always be an argument against leveraging the future for a single player or two. With the bust potential in the draft being statistically incredibly high in any round or at any position, it takes a lot of bravado to leverage a billion-dollar club’s future on someone who has been able to legally drink for a period of time shorter than a full NFL season.

Could TD fall in love with a Chase Young-type player enough to put together a Jones-esque trade? Maybe, but there is also one man who can drop a “Not so fast!” on him.

Rich McKay, the president and CEO of The Falcons, is no stranger to the draft or building a franchise. He is the only NFL GM to have his first two draft picks become Hall of Famers (Warren Sapp & Derrick Brooks). He hired Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay and won Super Bowl XXXVII as the GM of the Buccaneers. He even drafted our own Warrick Dunn.

McKay additionally has plenty of influence in the league as a whole, having been on the competition committee for 26 years (and has served as the chair of the committee for 22 years). His name was floated as a candidate for NFL Commissioner in 2006, and he has even gotten some traction as a potential replacement for Goodell. McKay also has obviously close ties directly to Arthur Blank.

With a pedigree like that, it’s of little surprise that in the offseason, Blank restructured the chain of command so as to have TD and DQ report directly to McKay. Regardless of what happens during the season itself, there is an overwhelming chance that McKay will still be with the team in 2021. With that level of impunity, McKay will be tasked with protecting the Falcons for the long term.

There is no doubt that Blank wants to win now, but he surely will want the team to continue to be successful for years to come. We should all have faith in Dimitroff, but if he does try to pull a nuclear option, McKay will be the firewall to protect the team. Of course Blank will have his say, but McKay will be the voice of reason through it. There is a chance that how Dimitroff handles this draft as a whole could ostensibly have a say in his future, and McKay will for sure have eyes on that.

For better or worse, Rich McKay is our last line of defense against desperation, or our first line of offense for pulling off a franchise-elevating draft.