Skip to main content

Three things we learned about direction of Falcons decisions from owner Arthur Blank, CEO Rich McKay

The Falcons parted ways with head coach Arthur Smith at midnight on Monday morning. 

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and team CEO Rich McKay spoke for exactly one hour and 30 minutes in a Monday evening press conference detailing the decision the organization came to late Sunday night, to part ways with head coach Arthur Smith. The conversation wound and wove through various topics regarding the direction of the organization, the distribution of power, quarterback talk and much more, on top of the obvious discussion about the decision to dismiss Smith after three seasons in Atlanta.

There are any number of avenues we could go down in recapping the conversation, and rest assured that those avenues will be tread at over the course of the next few days. (Trust me, I have a whole article cued up for Tuesday afternoon solely about the quarterback position and the future of it in Atlanta).

To get us started, though, let's take a look at three things pertinent for you to keep in mind right now.

Scenes from the Atlanta Falcons Press Conference at the AMB Family Office in Atlanta, Ga. On Monday, January 8, 2024. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

Answering the question: "Where was Terry Fontenot?"

The press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon did not include the Falcons general manager. Blank and McKay were the only Falcons representatives taking questions. So, of course, Fontenot's whereabouts, his status and role in the coming coaching search were all key topics of conversation.

Blank said that, just because Fontenot was not physically there at the press conference doesn't mean he is not represented. The owner said McKay represents Fontenot at the press conference and that Falcons leadership wanted Fontenot at the facility in Flowery Branch "dealing with coaches, their concerns and their families."

"Terry is our general manager," Blank said, "and he will be heavily involved in the process going forward.

"... Don't read anything into him not being here other than he's our partner, he's our general manager, he will definitely be a part of this process as we go forward. We appreciate the work that he and his personnel department have done in the last three years."

Roles defined

A large portion of the press conference included a discussion on who reports to whom in the organization. So, Blank and McKay laid out the organizational chart.

Smith did not report to Fontenot. Both Smith and Fontenot reported to McKay. The idea was that the general manager and head coach would have a 50/50 percentage of the decision making for the organization. McKay said this is how the Falcons would like to continue organizationally when they make their next coaching hire.

"In no way, shape or form would his role be diminished," McKay said of Fontenot now that Smith has been dismissed. "His role has still been to run the personnel department, which, I think the record speaks for itself."

(That "record" being what Blank described as "serious investments" in free agency that have seen "serious returns.")

When pressed about his role in the day-to-day decision making for the football team, McKay said it is his job "to give (the head coach and general manager) the support," and "not to give them the ideas."

"The day-to-day operation of the football team is run by the head coach when it comes to all the coaching and all the players and everything he does," McKay said. "And by the general manager when it comes to all of the players, player's selection and all that. They both report to me. We meet at least probably twice a week. We go through everything that is going on in the building. We probably text, call, talk every other day."

The pressure is on

Neither Blank nor McKay held back in regard to their opinions on the team record in 2023. 

"Our record against losing teams this year was abysmal, honestly," Blank said. "… We lost a bunch of games that we probably should not have lost, or didn't have to lose, if you will."

McKay: "This year we did not achieve what we wanted to achieve."

And a question they began asking themselves as a third consecutive season inched closer and closer to a 7-10 record was: "Are we going to be too patient or not?" McKay and Blank are tired of waiting for wins, especially when they felt like wins would accumulate in 2023 more than they ultimately did. 

One of the main reasons the Falcons came to the decision to part ways with Smith was because, McKay said, the organization "intends to win and compete at the highest levels in 2024." 

McKay and Blank agreed that they feel the organization is heading in the right direction, but said pointedly that the Falcons need results, wins. 

"Sooner rather than later," McKay said.

Related Content