The Atlanta Falcons' search for a new head coach and general manager ramped up this week, and it’s clear from the list of candidates interviewed that the franchise isn’t locked into hiring an offensive coach.
President and CEO Rich McKay told reporters on Monday that the most important quality they want in a coach is someone who has “all the elements of a strong leader, and that’s a long list of things we could discuss on another call sometime. But a strong leader.”
Here’s a quick look at the head-coaching and GM candidates the Falcons have interviewed:
Raheem Morris: He was named the interim head coach after Dan Quinn was fired on Oct. 11 and led the Falcons to a 4-7 record. None of the victories, however, came against teams that finished the season with winning records (Carolina, Minnesota, Las Vegas and Denver). Morris, who led Tampa Bay to a 17-31 record from 2009-11, has earned support from current players to become the permanent replacement.
Robert Saleh: The San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator has either interviewed with or has interviews lined up with five of the six teams that are searching for a head coach: Atlanta, Jacksonville, Detroit, Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets.
Eric Bieniemy: Kansas City’s OC has done or is scheduled to do interviews with Atlanta, Jacksonville, Detroit, the Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Jets during the top-seeded Chiefs’ bye week. He’s spent eight seasons with Andy Reid learning how to develop quarterbacks and call plays, and it would be a major surprise if he doesn’t get a head-coaching job.
Joe Brady: He became a hot name after helping former LSU Tiger Joe Burrow compile the best season ever for a college QB in 2019. Brady spent this past season as Carolina’s offensive coordinator, where he helped Teddy Bridgewater complete a career-high 69.1% of his passes.
Arthur Smith: Ryan Tannehill went from a player the Miami Dolphins didn’t want to one of the league’s top five quarterbacks (he’s fifth in total QBR, ahead of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady, among others). Smith, Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, is a big reason for that.
Todd Bowles: The Falcons have reportedly scheduled an interview with Bowles, who was the New York Jets’ head coach from 2015-18 before serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Nathaniel Hackett: The former Syracuse, Bills and Jaguars offensive coordinator is currently the Green Bay Packers’ OC, and Aaron Rodgers just wrapped up a regular season in which he set career highs in completion percentage (70.1) and touchdown passes (48). The Falcons conducted an interview on Thursday.
Brandon Staley: He has been an NFL coach since 2017 and has only been a coordinator for one year: 2020 with the Los Angeles Rams. L.A. leads the NFL in fewest yards allowed, pass defense and scoring defense and is third in run defense.
Rick Smith: The former Houston Texans GM is one of the top available candidates and has interviewed with Atlanta, Detroit and Jacksonville. Denver also reportedly has interest.
Terry Fontenot: He has served as the New Orleans Saints’ assistant GM of pro personnel for the past six years.
Anthony Robinson: He’s Atlanta’s director of college scouting and has been with the Falcons for 13 seasons.
Brad Holmes: Holmes is the Rams’ director of college scouting and has been with the organization for 18 years.
Morocco Brown: He’s Indianapolis’ director of college scouting and has 20 years of experience in the NFL.
George Paton: He has spent 14 seasons in Minnesota and has been the assistant GM to Rick Spielman since 2012.
Joe Schoen: He has been the assistant general manager of the Buffalo Bills under Brandon Beane and helped construct the roster that dethroned New England in the AFC East.
Louis Riddick: The ESPN analyst, who was a former scout and director of pro personnel for Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles, has interviewed with Atlanta, Jacksonville, Houston and Detroit.