The Falcons can hire a head coach right now if they feel it is the right candidate.
After meeting with Ejiro Evero in person for the second time, the club is officially compliant with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to meet with two external minority candidates in person before making an official hire without undergoing penalties.
Though they can, I don’t suspect anything is imminent on the hiring front. The Falcons have a second interview scheduled with a half-dozen prospective head coaches this week, but the feeling is still that Bill Belichick is the frontrunner for the vacancy.
From the moment Arthur Smith was relieved of his duties, every media pundit said that the architect of The Patriot Way was the Falcons top target. And given Belichick’s lack of interest around the league, the writing seems to be on the wall.
So, now that the Falcons are able to make a hire, what’s the holdup?
Well, one explanation is that Blank, Rich McKay, and Terry Fontenot are taking a thorough approach. Even if Belichick is their top candidate, the former Patriots head coach hasn’t met with any other club officially. They can take their time and meet with other candidates.
Another explanation, as Albert Breer pointed out on The Rich Eisen Show, could be the organizational structure component to bringing Bill Belichick into the fold with Rich McKay and Terry Fontenot.
There are hurdles to clear, though, in terms of what the organizational structure would look like under Belichick. Longtime Falcons team president Rich McKay is a very powerful figure in that organization and a trusted lieutenant of team owner Arthur Blank. His role likely would be reduced if Belichick came to town, and there’s also a feeling that Belichick would bring a lot of his own people for positions up and down the organization. So as you would imagine, there’s pushback from people in the building whose jobs might be negatively impacted.
Jeff Schultz recently shed light on Rich McKay’s role within the Falcons franchise, but what’s most important is that his role has always been viewed negatively by potential head coach and general manager candidates.
Belichick comes from New England, where he had the autonomy to do as he pleased. He ran football operations, personnel, and everything in between. Belichick was the de facto GM and head coach for more than two decades.
Though he said he didn’t need it, Belichick surely has an issue with reporting to the Falcons CEO as Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have over the last three seasons. Personal rifts aside, it’s a foolish way to run a football program.
Look at any competent franchise that’s found sustainable success and they have a traditional power structure of an owner, GM, and head coach. Hell, all Arthur Blank has to do is look at his neighbors to figure out what’s going wrong. There are very few organizations in sports that compare to the Atlanta Braves; it’s first class from Terry McGuirk of Liberty Media to Alex Anthopoulos to Brian Snitker.
It’s worth wondering what the power structure will be if Bill Belichick comes aboard. What will Belichick’s responsibilities be? Will Rich McKay stay on as a hands-off CEO, out of football ops completely? Will Terry Fontenot’s role be reduced?
Arthur Blank is seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place; he may have to choose between the greatest coach of all time and his closest confidant.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire