ATLANTA - Falcons owner Arthur Blank likened the leadership decision to investing in a new car for the long haul or a marriage commitment. They're not looking for "one-year wonder" leaders in Atlanta.
After starting the year 0-5, the Falcons parted ways with head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Interim head coach Raheem Morris guided the team to a 4-12 finish on the year.
Here is a running list of the candidates linked to both of those jobs.
- Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith: The Atlanta Falcons have offered their head coaching job to Smith, FOX 5 Sports has confirmed. The Falcons virtually interviewed Smith on Jan. 11 and brought him in for a second interview on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Smith was in the running for all of the vacant head coaching gigs across the league. Smith has been with the Titans since 2011 in various positions. Under Smith during the 2020 regular season, the Titans tied for second in yards per game (396.4) and also finished second in the league with rushing yards per game (168.1) and total rushing yards (2,690). Tennessee finished fourth in the league in scoring, putting up 30.7 points per game and 491 points overall.
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Tight ends coach Arthur Smith of the Tennessee Titans looks on during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Nissan Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
- Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady: The Falcons confirmed conducting a virtual interview with Brady on Jan. 7, and the Carolina offensive coordinator was also among the team's top candidates, sources tell FOX 5. You may recognize this name as the coach who coached No. 1 pick Joe Burrow to a historic Heisman Trophy-winning 2019 season, capped off with a juggernaut offense and national title. Matt Rhule poached Brady from the Tigers to guide the Panthers' offense this season, where it ranked 21st in total yards per game (349.5), No. 18 in passing yards per game (243.0), No. 21 in rushing yards per game (106.5) and 24th overall in points per game (21.9).
- Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy: The team confirmed it interviewed Bieniemy virtually on Jan. 4. He has been the coordinator of one of the league's most successful offenses since being promoted from the running back coach position in 2018. The reigning Super Bowl champions currently rank first in total yards per game (425.7), first in passing yards per game (309.1), and second in points scored per game (30.1).
- Interim Falcons head coach Raheem Morris: Morris interviewed for the head coaching gig on Jan. 1. He took over when Dan Quinn was fired on Oct. 12, when the Falcons were 0-5. Since taking the helm, the Falcons finished the season 4-6 (4-12 overall), with five of those losses coming by five points or less. Prior to his Falcons coaching stint -- uniquely coaching both offense and defense during his tenure -- Morris was the defensive backs coach for Washington from 2012-14. Prior to that, he was head coach of the Buccaneers, going 17-31 from 2009-11.
- Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett: Hackett virtually interviewed with Atlanta on Jan. 7, the team confirmed. It was his first head coach interview this year. Hackett, a big part of the offense's revival in Green Bay, recently elicited praise from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: "Hack has been a really important part of our culture change and a part of our success on offense. I love him. Hope he doesn’t go anywhere. Unless I do." The Packers currently rank fifth in yards per game (389.0) and lead the league in points per game (31.8) and most points scored overall (509).
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles: The Falcons confirmed interviewing Bowles, who was the head coach of the New York Jets from 2015-2018 (24-40), on Jan. 11. This season in Tampa, Bowles has coordinated one of the league's best defenses: plus-seven in turnover differential (No. 6 in the league), 23 total takeaways (No. 4), giving up 323.3 yards per game (No. 6) and 21.9 points per game (No. 7). The Bucs are also the NFL's top rushing defense, giving up just 77.5 yards per game.
- Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley: NFL Network reports Staley is garnering interest from the Falcons. 2020 was his first season as the Rams' defensive coordinator, but before that he was outside linebackers coach in Denver in 2019 and in Chicago from 2017-2018. This season, L.A. leads the league in total yards allowed per game (286.5) and passing yards allowed per game (192.3), in addition to being third in rushing yards allowed (94.1) and third overall in points allowed per game (19.3). Their 21 turnovers this year is tied for the fifth-most in the NFL.
- San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh: The Falcons virtually interviewed Saleh on Jan. 4. The New York Jets reached an agreement with Saleh to become their head coach on Jan. 14.
- Saints VP/assistant general manager of pro personnel Terry Fontenot: Sources tell FOX 5 that Fontenot is the Falcons' top choice to be their next GM, after he virtuall interviewed with Atlanta on Jan. 6. Fontenot is in his first season in this role but 18th year overall with New Orleans, beginning as a marketing intern and then becoming a scouting intern. He's spent time as a pro scouting assistant, assistant in player personnel, pro scout and a director of pro scouting.
- Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown: The Falcons confirmed they virtually interviewed Brown, who is in his fifth year with the Colts in this role. He has two decades of NFL experience on his resume, also including Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel (2014-15), director of player personnel for the Washington Football Team (2008-13) and Chicago Bears director of pro personnel (2001-07).
- Former Texans GM/executive vice president of football operations Rick Smith: The Falcons confirmed they interviewed Smith, Houston's general manager from 2006-17, on Dec. 18. While in Houston, he brought in stars like J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. Smith also used to be a coach and a director of player personnel for the Broncos.
- Falcons director of college scouting Anthony Robinson: The team also confirmed it interviewed Robinson on Dec. 18. He is in his second year in this role and has worked in the Falcons' personnel department for 13 seasons, beginning his career in Atlanta as a scouting assistant for three seasons before being elevated to Southeast area scout and Eastern regional scout in 2016.
- Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes: The team confirmed on Jan. 5, it virtually interviewed Holmes, who has spent his 18-year-career with the Rams organization and once interned with the Atlanta Hawks. However, the Detroit Lions agreed to terms with Brad Holmes on Jan. 14 to be their general manager. https://twitter.com/Justin_FOX5/status/1346140416626798593In-person interviews could begin Monday for head coach and general manager positions with candidates who are not current NFL club employees or whose club is not participating in the postseason. Virtual interviews, however, could begin with coaches whose clubs have a bye in the first week of the playoffs, and may continue through the conclusion of wild card games on Jan. 10. Virtual interviews for high-level club employees and secondary football executive positions may begin as well. Once a candidate’s employer club is eliminated from the playoffs, in-person interviews may begin. Falcons secure No. 4 pick in 2021 NFL Draft Please check back for updates on this story as it develops.