Rich McKay has had a prominent position within the Falcons organization for a very long time now. The Buccaneers general manager for a decade from the mid-90s to the mid-aughts, McKay spent five years as Atlanta’s general manager from 2003-2008 before taking on the president/CEO role with the organization after the hiring of Thomas Dimitroff in 2008. Executives and coaches have come and gone over the past 15 years, but McKay has been a fixture.
He remains a fixture. On Monday, the Falcons announced several promotions in the organization, with longtime executive Greg Beadles taking on the team president role and set to handle the business side of the role that McKay has long inhabited. That frees McKay up to focus solely on football as the team’s CEO, per a new report from ESPN’s Mike Rothstein, where he’s effectively running things with Arthur Blank serving as the final say. That’s an arrangement that has made him a polarizing figure for everyone from former players to fans and had the league rumbling about his level of involvement in football operations during the 2020 season, but Blank’s trust in him seems to be near-total. He is not going anywhere.
Given his power in the organization, and given that it was McKay who led the search for Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith, his opinion on the job they’ve done is very relevant. In remarks to Rothstein:
McKay said he’s “as confident or more confident” in Smith and Fontenot since when Atlanta hired them.
“What I’ve seen is they described a plan and the way they were going to play games and the way they were going to build a roster and they’ve really followed that and not varied from it,” McKay said. “And the hardest thing in this business, in my time, for people to do is to stay to the plan, because usually something happens.
“There’s a distraction; there’s an opportunity; there’s an injury and you change, and they have not done that. They have stayed to the plan.”
McKay is obviously glossing over a couple of items from last offseason here, but generally he’s echoing something I’ve long said: The Falcons have been patient to this point and have tried to get to where they want to be without major shortcuts, Deshaun Watson pursuit very much excepted. He also told Rothstein that while he was not setting a particular expectation for how much improvement the Falcons needed to have in 2023, he did think that saying the Falcons had to win a certain number of games or make the playoffs next year was “not appropriate.”
Between the fact that McKay remains on his perch in football operations and his evident trust in the general manager and coach he had a significant role in hiring, it appears there are no warm seats or big shakeups looming after a fifth straight losing season in Atlanta. The Falcons are expected to be better next year and at least make significant progress—I know many fans already are lining up behind a playoffs or bust mentality after such a long drought—but the team seems unlikely to set hard win goal totals unless Arthur Blank gets awfully antsy.
The reality is that expectations are growing, and that has been spurred on by a coaching staff and front office that have talked repeatedly about the need to believe the Falcons are capable of more. McKay will be here as long as Blank owns the team, in all likelihood, but progress and more wins are the recipe for Fontenot and Smith to achieve staying power and long-term success. That all begins now.