The Atlanta Falcons finally brought an end to the Thomas Dimitroff era earlier this season. With the fate of the franchise hanging in the balance, owner Arthur Blank must hire a new general manager.
And if all goes well, an ESPN analyst may just make the transition from television back to the front office.
The Falcons are in a state of transition
Just a few years ago, the Falcons looked like one of the top teams in the NFL. Thomas Dimitroff, who worked for Bill Belichick for years, assembled a star-studded roster with a solid mix of youth and veteran talent. That allowed Dan Quinn to make a Super Bowl appearance in just his second season on the job.
Although the Falcons made it back to the playoffs in 2017, they failed to get back to the big game. Atlanta then went 7-9 in both 2018 and 2019.
Quinn and Dimitroff entered the 2020 season firmly on the hot seat. However, the Falcons started the year 0-5 after blowing several fourth-quarter leads. Atlanta fired both Quinn and Dimitroff and promoted Raheem Morris to interim head coach.
Surprisingly, the Falcons have fared much better with Morris at the helm. But at 4-8, they appear headed for a third straight season without a postseason berth.
Overall, it’s clear that Atlanta has a lot of work to do this offseason to get back on the path to contending for a Super Bowl.
An ESPN analyst is in the mix for the general manager vacancy
In need of a new GM, the Falcons have reportedly compiled a list of candidates for the position. Interestingly, one of them happens to work at ESPN.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, Atlanta has its sights set on Louis Riddick for its GM vacancy. Although he makes a living for his television work, the 51-year-old has also collected NFL paychecks.
The Pennsylvania native worked as a pro scout for the then-Washington Redskins for four years before he got promoted to director of pro personnel.
Riddick followed the same path with the Philadelphia Eagles. After working his way up the ranks, he ascended to the director of pro personnel position in 2010. He remained in that role until 2013.
Prior to becoming a scout, Riddick played defensive back for several NFL franchises. He entered the league as a ninth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 1991. Ironically, he had two brief stints with the Falcons before he transitioned to scouting/player personnel.
Whether Riddick gets the job remains to be seen. But whoever Atlanta hires as its next GM faces a major decision at the most important position in football.
Will Atlanta move on from Matt Ryan sooner than later?
Despite their 4-8 record, the Falcons still have some talented players on their roster. But will Atlanta’s next GM want to add to the team or execute a full rebuild?
The Falcons need to start planning for life after Matt Ryan. The 35-year-old has been the starting quarterback in Atlanta since 2008. However, the Falcons have only posted a winning record twice since 2012 with the former Boston College star under center.
Based on his contract, Ryan should be back in 2021. But Atlanta can get out of his deal in 2022 if it is willing to absorb a $26.5 million dead-cap hit.
That should make the Falcons a favorite to select a quarterback early in the 2021 NFL draft. They should hold a top-10 pick, which will put them in a position to potentially land the next face of the franchise.
On defense, Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones should stick around for years to come. But Atlanta’s next GM must find more pass-rush help and continue to fortify the back seven.
The Falcons have recorded just 24 sacks through 12 games, with 6.5 of them coming from the Jarrett-Jones duo. Atlanta has only picked off eight passes after recording just 12 in 2019. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a rating of 102.9 against the Falcons—the fifth-highest mark in the NFL.
If Louis Riddick ultimately trades in his ESPN badge for a Falcons one, it’s clear he will have a lot of work to do.