The Atlanta Falcons went quickly through a slew of interviews from Monday to Thursday, touching base with multiple head coach and general manager candidates. Things went quiet after the Thursday’s interview with Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, leading us to believe the Rich McKay and Arthur Blank duo are meeting internally to discuss their options, and potentially to start a second round of interviews with general manager candidates.
However, we should note that the Falcons have not been able to interview candidates coaching this weekend and may be waiting for the next set of video calls.
It is believed the Falcons intend to hire a general manager before picking their head coach. Due to the structure of the interviews, it is also believed the general manager decision will be based in part on Atlanta’s interviews of head coaches pithed by those potential general managers. The head coach will be chosen by the general manager, however, that general manager will be selected in part on their top head coach candidates.
The perceived package deal helps make sense of a few reports surfacing regarding the search. The first comes from Joe Person of The Athletic, a long-time beat writer for the Carolina Panthers.
Industry sources think Brady’s best shot is in Atlanta, which has interviewed Saints assistant general manager of pro personnel Terry Fontenot for their GM opening. Brady and Fontenot worked together in New Orleans when Brady was an offensive assistant for Sean Payton.
Fontenot, along with Rick Smith formerly of the Houston Texans, has been mentioned in nearly every single rumor surrounding Atlanta’s general manager opening. We have no indication that either has returned for a second interview, but they should be among the top candidates.
The second report comes from Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.
This week, the 31-year-old Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator interviewed for three head-coaching jobs, and a source was confident about his chances with the Falcons. The interview went quite well.
Things appear to be lining up for Brady, however, the Falcons have not had a chance to interview candidates who played this weekend, such as Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Some bad news regarding Eric Bieniemy’s chances after some heavily conflicting reports in the last few days. Bieniemy has easily been the favorite candidate at The Falcoholic for most of the regular season. Andy Reid’s coaching tree may be one of the best in the NFL, and Bieniemy has been involved in the best stretch of Reid’s career. Trying to emulate the Chiefs offense would be exciting.
Per the same ESPN article, Bieniemy believed he had a great shot with the Falcons, but “[o]thers, however, believe he’s not the Falcons’ top choice.”
There is no additional information regarding Bieniemy, but this aligns with the earliest information from Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle, a reporter with a strong network within the league not known to otherwise trump up NFL news, that the interview with the Falcons went poorly. That news was quickly and strongly disputed, with Steve Wyche explaining that team officials were angry the news came out.
Bieniemy may have had a great interview with the Falcons, but no one has yet called Bieniemy the top candidate for the Falcons or any other team. As a practical matter, it is a very bad look for the Falcons for negative news to leak about a candidate while interviews are ongoing, especially as detailed as what came from Wilson. True or not, other candidates may not even take Atlanta’s call if there is a chance negative leaks could influence their ability to land other jobs.
If the chance at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could be undone because, for instance, a team does not like your proposed plan for dealing with some expensive contracts for aging players, it might be best to avoid that team entirely. As we do not know one way or another, each conflicting report should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since the Falcons have an interest in denying those reports whether or not they are true.
Ultimately, we will not know exactly what is true until we receive news on second interviews or the ultimate hires. The Fontenot and Brady connection appears quite strong and consistent.