First Look: The Atlanta Falcons

There are four more quarters of football to be played in Atlanta before the rebuilding can actually begin. The process is going to be multi-pronged, especially since there are coaches who want the job, players who want out and an owner who wants rapid results.

The Falcons first have to end their season next Sunday against Seattle, a playoff team that features former Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney -- the NFL sacks leader -- and secondary coach Jim Mora, who posted the second best winning percentage (52 percent) in Falcons history but was fired New Year's Day.

While players are preparing for that game, and also getting out of Dodge shortly thereafter, team owner Arthur Blank is consulting with people throughout the league about candidates he should talk to about being the team's next general manager. Blank is keeping people under his employ at arm's length, causing tremendous angst about what's next.

No one seems to know the route the Home Depot co-founder will take. He thinks the football team can be rebuilt quickly, although it needs a quarterback, at least three offensive linemen, an every-down tailback, at least one, if not two new safeties and maybe a middle linebacker.

Blank might try to go with an experienced football man or he could call on an upstart, who has been with a successful franchise and learned from the right people. Floyd Reese and Charley Casserly are some of the experienced general managers Blank could speak with.

New England's Scott Pioli is a long-shot, as is Dallas' Jeff Ireland, who is expected to join Bill Parcells in Miami. Green Bay's Reggie McKenzie is another up-and-comer.
Who Blank opts to hire will have the authority to hire the coach, but there apparently are plenty of people who would like the job. Marty Schottenheimer isn't one of them, as a reclamation project is not what he wants at this juncture.

However, Dallas's Jason Garrett, San Francisco's Mike Singletary and Jim Caldwell of Indianapolis could be potential candidates if Blank chooses to give someone a shot. Blank has gone that route with Mora and Bobby Petrino and things have not worked out but he might not have much of an option.

Falcons interim head coach Emmitt Thomas, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer would love to get an interview, but with Blank seemingly distancing himself from so much of what exists with the team, they might not have a realistic chance.

Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall said players expressed to Blank the desire to at least provide some input on the type of coach they would like to play for. Blank might listen but then again, he might not want to hear much from a unit with no real nucleus or players who could be shipped out.

Hall said he does not want to play for a dictator type like Petrino, but he might not be here to have to worry about that. The cornerback has one year left on his contract and wants an extension, but he might end up being moved in the offseason if he is viewed to be a distraction.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Roddy White surpassed the 1,000 receiving yards milestone, making him the first Falcon since WR Terance Mathis garnered 1,016 yards in 1999. White's career-high 12 catches for 141 yards vs. Arizona Sunday gives him 1,140 for the season.

--WR Joe Horn, bothered by a foot injury, might not start the season finale, if ever again for Atlanta. Horn did not play against Arizona, making this the fourth game he missed because of injury. Horn, signed as a free agent this summer, has just 24 receptions for 211 yards.

--Rookie WR Laurent Robinson, Joe Horn's replacement, is the future. Robinson scored his first touchdown on a 74-yard skinny post making Arizona's Antrel Rolle look bad in the process. Robinson has 36 receptions for 426 yards on the season.

--LG Justin Blalock is expected to start the season finale after returning to the starting lineup vs. Arizona Sunday. Blalock was inactive for two games after the coaching staff felt he was mentally and physically expired.

--CB DeAngelo Hall returned punts for the first time against Arizona Sunday, a role that many observers felt he should have had much earlier. Hall said that former coach Bobby Petrino asked him to return punts in the preseason but he declined because he thought he could supplant good friend Allen Rossum, who was eventually traded to Pittsburgh. After Rossum was traded, Hall said he approached Petrino about returning punts but was rebuffed.


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