Falcons President and CEO, Rich McKay, has been a fixture in the National Football League for more than 30 years. One of the League's most influential executives, McKay joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2004. During McKay's tenure, the Falcons have been to the playoffs seven times, been to three NFC Championship games and participated in Super Bowl LI. McKay was hired by Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank in 2004 and served his first four years as the team's general manager. He was promoted to president and chief executive officer in 2011. That same year, national columnist and creator of Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB), Peter King, named McKay number 10 out of the 100 most influential people in the NFL. In 2019, The Athletic put McKay in The NFL's 100 most influential business people of all-time.
McKay played a central role in the development, opening and operation of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in addition to his Falcons duties. With the stadium built and operating with a best-in-class leadership team, led by AMBSE CEO Steve Cannon, McKay returned his focus to a larger role in the operation of the Falcons with the Falcons head coach and general manager reporting to him. He led the 2021 search that resulted in Arthur Smith being named the Falcons' 18th head coach and Terry Fontenot being named the organization's 11th general manager.
McKay was the point person in the negotiation, development and building of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a process that began in earnest in 2008. Working closely with Blank, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, McKay helped to secure approval and financing for Mercedes-Benz Stadium and created a true public-private partnership. The club broke ground on Mercedes-Benz Stadium on May 19, 2014, and it was completed in August of 2017 and serves as the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. He is the only executive to have led two successful stadium negotiations (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). In April of 2014, McKay was named President of AMB Sports & Entertainment (AMBSE) which oversees the Falcons, Atlanta United and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
McKay has served as a member of the NFL's Competition Committee since 1994, which is longer than any member has ever served since the committee's inception in 1968. He has led the committee as co-chairman (1998-2011) or chairman (2011-current) since 1998. The committee is comprised of NFL head coaches and League executives who study the game and recommend rule changes and modifications to ensure player safety while promoting competitiveness. The Competition Committee has recommended and passed over fifty (50) player safety rules changes since 2002. In addition to his commitment to advancing the game, McKay has been involved in the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements with the National Football League Players Association and was highly involved in the negotiations that led to the ten year collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 and the newest ten year agreement that was executed in 2021.
Prior to joining the Falcons, McKay spent 10 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, serving as general manager. While serving as general manager for Tampa Bay (1994-2003) and Atlanta (2004-2008), McKay was the architect of a Super Bowl winning team (Super Bowl XXXVII) as well as six teams that reached the playoffs and three that advanced to the NFC Championship game. During his 15 seasons in the General Manager role, his teams compiled an overall record of 112-96 with a playoff record of 6-5. As a GM, McKay worked with three different NFL head coaches who have guided their respective teams to NFC Championship games – Tony Dungy in 1999 with Tampa Bay, Jon Gruden in 2002 with Tampa Bay and Jim Mora in 2004 with Atlanta.
McKay's personnel scouting acumen was a successful formula which produced 59 players that played in the Pro Bowl during his time as an NFL General Manager. McKay showed his eye for talent when he drafted eight players in the 1997 draft class that went on to play a combined 1,175 games, with 772 starts over their careers. Those players helped contribute to Tampa Bay's 41 Pro Bowl selections between 1997 through 2002, which were the most in the NFL. To put it into perspective, the Buccaneers only had 19 Pro Bowl selections in the first 21 years of their history leading up to 1997.
One of McKay's proudest accomplishments is that 11 of his former lieutenants have risen through the ranks to sit in the general manager's chair at other NFL franchises.
While many of the players McKay drafted developed into Pro Bowl performers on the field, several have been stars in their community. Atlanta Falcons Limited Partner Warrick Dunn, whom McKay drafted in 1997 with Tampa Bay, was the recipient of the 2004 Walter Payton/NFL Man of the Year award. This award is presented annually to the NFL's most philanthropic player. Derrick Brooks, who was also a draft selection of McKay's, was also a co-recipient of the award in 2000.
The McKay family is one of the most successful football families with substantial roots in both the collegiate and professional game. Rich's late father, the legendary John McKay, led the University of Southern California Trojans to four national championships in 16 seasons. In 2019, ESPN ran a list of the 150 greatest teams in college football's 150-year history and McKay had four of the top 70 teams and the 3rd ranked team of all time.
Rich's older brother J.K. McKay, was a starting wide receiver for the Trojans and part of two national championship teams (1972 & 1974) in addition to playing in three Rose Bowl games while playing for his father. The third generation of McKay's in the football business won a Super Bowl in 2021. Rich's son, John, is the Director of Pro Scouting for the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. Between the four McKay's, they have won six national championships, participated as a player or coach in 12 Rose Bowls, participated as a coach, player or team executive in seven NFL conference championship games, won two National Collegiate Coach of the Year Awards, won one XFL Championship as a general manager, and won one Super Bowl as a general manager and one as a Director of Pro Personnel.
Both Coach McKay and Rich McKay saw their first draft picks selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lee Roy Selmon was the first pick for John McKay as a head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 while Warren Sapp was the first pick for Rich McKay in 1995. After the enshrinement of Sapp and Derrick Brooks, Rich McKay became the first and only general manager in NFL history to have his first two draft picks go on to be first-ballot members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
McKay earned his bachelor's degree in Economics in 1981 from Princeton University, graduated from Stetson's College of Law in 1984, clerked for two years for Tampa's U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges, and was inducted into the Stetson Law Hall of Fame on November 2014. McKay worked at the Tampa law firm of Hill, Ward, and Henderson, P.A., from 1986-1992 where he served as General Counsel for the Buccaneers. Born March 16, 1959, in Eugene, Oregon, McKay grew up in Los Angeles and Tampa, graduating from Tampa's Jesuit High School.
As an avid long-distance runner, Rich has participated in and finished six marathons including two New York City Marathons, an Atlanta Marathon, and the Los Angeles in Marathon in 2013 and in 2016, and the 2019 San Diego marathon.
McKay and his wife, Terrin, have two sons; Hunter, a 2012 graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama who is employed in the Sports Information Office at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and John, a 2015 graduate of the University of Southern California is the director of pro scouting for the Los Angeles Rams.