The Milwaukee Journal reports that New Orleans Saints VP of Football Administration Russ Ball is expected to be hired soon as the new chief contract negotiator of the Green Bay Packers. This news is only significant to the Falcons because it indicates that Brian Xanders, the team’s director of football administration, will not be picked by the Packers for the same role. Xanders was considered a finalist along with Ball and Samir Suleiman of the St. Louis Rams.
Xanders has been with the Falcons four fourteen seasons and has worked as the team’s chief contract negotiator for the last two. He also served on the coaching staff for five seasons (1997-01) under Dan Reeves, and has worked in football administration, involved with the salary cap and contract negotiations since. The Falcons already lost assistant general manager Billy Devaney earlier this week to the Rams.
In what may be the first of several changes in the Falcons front office in the coming months and/or years, the Steve Wyche of the AJC reports that Falcons assistant GM Billy Devaney has accepted a position with the St. Louis Rams as Executive VP of Player Personnel. With the Falcons hiring of Thomas Dimitroff last month as the team’s new GM, it’s expected that in time Dimitroff will begin to surround himself with people that he is familiar and comfortably working with. However Wyche reports that Devaney was encouraged to stay on with the Falcons and accepted the Rams position because it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Devaney was hired by Falcons in 2006 and was promoted to assistant GM in May 2007. In his new role in St. Louis, Devaney will be the Rams personnel chief in charge of college and pro scouting. It seems to represent an expansion on duties and power from his Falcon job.
The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that Falcons officials have confirmed that New England Patriots director of college scouting Tom Dimitroff will be their next general manager. The Falcons had gone through several candidates for the open position since the team decided to demote Rich McKay, but ultimately settled on Dimitroff. Now that the teams has hired a general manager, their next major move will be hiring a new head coach. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has indicated in the past that the new GM will have authority to choose the new coach, despite the team’s simultaneous search for both. The Falcons have already interviewed seven candidates, but it is not known whether Dimitroff’s choice will be among those names.
Dimitroff comes from a proven and successful organization. At age 40 he is one of the youngest GMs in the league. Dimitroff joined the Patriots in 2002 and was promoted to college scouting director the following year. Prior to his experience with the Patriots, he worked as a scout for the Cleveland Browns (1998-01), Detroit Lions (1994-97), and Kansas City Chiefs (1993). He also worked in the World League (1992) and Canadian Football Leagues (1990-91) as a personnel assistant. He has been considered an up and coming GM candidate for several years, and now will be given the opportunity to run his own team.
Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that Eagles GM Tom Heckert remains the favorite to land the Falcons GM job according to league sources. Heckert could be named the team’s new GM as soon as this weekend. The Falcons are reportedly in talks with USC head coach Pete Carroll about the possibility of him joining the team in potentially both capacities as coach and GM. But even those reports suggest that something is expected to happen soon.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has indicated that whomever the team hires as GM will have the power to choose to the team’s next head coach, despite the fact that the team has conducted six separate interviews of prospective coaching candidates in the past week, including one today with Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Heckert is among five candidates that have formally interviewed for the Falcons GM position, although one in Chris Mara, withdrew his name from consideration this past week.
Domowitch reports that if Heckert is hired as GM, the favorite for being his choice of head coach is New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Falcons requested permission to interview Spagnuolo, but were denied by the Giants due to their upcoming playoff game this weekend. It was reported that if the Giants were to lose, it was likely that Spagnuolo would be made available to interview.
Domowitch also reports that if Spagnuolo is hired, current Philadelphia Eagles QB coach Pat Shurmur would be a probable choice as the Falcons new offensive coordinator.
ProFootballTalk.com also reports that Patriots college scouting director Tom Dimitroff is also a front-runner as far as Falcons GM candidates go.
Prospective Falcosn general manager candidate Chris Mara withdrew his name from consideration in a statement released by the Giants earlier today:
“I have withdrawn my name from consideration for the position of general manager for the Atlanta Falcons. I want to thank (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank for his interest in me, and we had a very good discussion earlier this week in Atlanta. However, I am no longer a candidate for the position.”
Mara is the second candidate to formally remove his name from consideration. Last week, Chris Polian of the Colts declined to sit for an interview. However, Mara did at least interview for the position, having sat down with the Falcons earlier this week on Tuesday.
ESPN reports that the Falcons may have found a replacement candidate in New Orleans Saints director of college scouting Rick Reiprish. Reiprish, 57, has extensive personnel experience, first joining the Saints in 2004. Prior to that he served five years as the Jacksonville Jaguars director of player personnel after four years as their director of college scouting. Prior to that he worked as a scout with the Seattle Seahawks (1984-94). He also worked with BLESTO (1979-82) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1982-84) as a scout. Prior to that he worked as an assistant coach at North Alabam (1978), Eastern Tennessee (1977), and Austin Peay (1973-76).
ESPN reports that sources told ESPN college football analyst Joe Schad that the interest between the Falcons and Pete Carroll is mutual. Carroll is expected to speak with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Wednesday via telephone. Carroll is currently vacationing in Hawaii. Blank is expected to offer Carroll full control of personnel decisions, which could ultimately end both their searches for a new head coach and general manager.
Carroll has shown previous interest in other NFL jobs in Arizona, Houston, Miami, San Diego, and San Francisco.
UPDATE: Adam Schefter of NFL.com reports that Carroll is unlikely to be interested in the Falcons head coaching job, according to a source close to him. The source indicates that Carroll looked at the position a year ago, and wasn’t interested then, and it’s unlikely that anything has changed in a year’s time to modify his interest.
Schefter also reports that the Falcons are potentially close to hiring a general manager, and currently Tom Heckert and John Schneider are atop their wish list. The team interviewed Heckert this past Monday, and interviewed Schneider a week ago.
Michael C. Wright of the Florida Times-Union reports that the Falcons will interview Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith later this week.
Smith, 48, joined the Jaguars in 2003 as their defensive coordinator. Prior to that stint, he was a defensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens for four seasons. His prior coaching experience all came at the collegiate level where he coached at San Diego State (1982-85), Morehead State (1986), and Tennessee Tech (1987-98). Smith played one season at linebacker with the Winnepeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 1982.
Not to be confused, the Falcons have already interviewed a candidate for the GM job from Jacksonville, their director of college socuting Gene Smith.
Steve Wyche of the AJC also reports that the Falcons conducted an interview of Patriots director of college scouting Tom Dimitroff this past weekend via satellite. Dimitroff has been considered a top candidate for the team’s vacant general manager position.
ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli cites multiple sources indicating that the Falcons have requested permission to interview University of Southern California head coach Pete Carroll for their open head coaching position.
Since taking over the Trojans in 2001, Carroll has compiled a 76-14 record and won a national championship and lost another. He coached for four seasons in the NFL, compiling a 33-31 record. He coached the New York Jets for one season (1994), and the New England Patriots for three (1997-99). He was 1-2 in the playoffs with the Patriots. Carroll has been rumored as a potential candidate for past jobs in the NFL, but has yet to make the jump back to the NFL. Reports indicate that he is seeking complete control over football operations. It would be unknown if the potential Falcons job would offer such. The team is currently conducting a wide-ranging search for its next general manager to succeed Rich McKay, and that person is expected to have “final say” on personnel decisions and will also be extensively involved in the process to hire the next head coach as well.
Also in the ESPN report, confirms that the Falcons have received permission to interview Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. He is expected to interview for the team sometime later in the week.
Newsday’s Bob Glauber reported that New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would interview for the Falcons head coaching position on Friday of this week, but a report by Mike Garafolo of the Star Ledger indicates that the Giants have denied the Falcons request to interview Spagnuolo. According to Garafolo’s report, this denial is temporary as the Giants would grant permission to interview him upon them being eliminated in the playoffs. The Giants are set to face the favored Dallas Cowboys this weekend.
Garafolo also indicates that Spagnuolo and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett sit atop the team’s wish list as far as head coaching candidates go. Previous reports have indicated that the team prefers Jim Caldwell and Mike Singletary. Considering that either the Giants or Cowboys will advance to the conference championship game, Garafolo writes that could delay the hiring process as the team waits for that person’s availability for another interview.
The Falcons interviewed Chris Mara of the Giants today for their general manager position. If Mara is hired, Spagnuolo would likely be a favored option due to his familiarity within the Giants organization. Spagnuolo also worked as an assistant for eight years with the Philadelphia Eagles, most recently as a linebackers coach. That would also make him familiar to prospective GM candidate Tom Heckert as well. Heckert interviewed for the position on Monday, but left without a contract offer, although Ashley Fox of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that there could be one by the end of the week. Fox cites a league source that indicates the Falcons GM search could be coming to a close by the end of this week.
Spagnuolo joined the Eagles in 1999 as a defensive assistant, before being promoted to defensive backs coach in 2001. He moved to coach linebackers in 2004. Prior to that, his only NFL coaching experience came in 1983 as a player personnel intern with the Washington Redskins and as a scout with the San Diego Chargers in 1993. He worked as defensive coordinator of the Frankfurt Galaxy in 1998 and as a defensive line and special teams coach with the Barcelona Dragons in 1992. Other than that, his coaching experience is all on the college ranks, working at UMass (1982-83), Lafayette (1984-86), Connecticut (1987-91), Maine (1993-94), Rutgers (1994-95), and Bowling Green (1996-97).
Along with interviewing Mara on Tuesday, the Falcons also interviewed another prospective GM candidate in Jacksonville Jaguars director of college scouting Gene Smith according to the AJC. Smith has served as the Jaguars director of college scouting since 2000. He originally joined the Jags front office in 1994 as an area scout. Prior to his work in Jacksonville, he was an assistant coach at Ohio University (1986-88) and Edinboro University (1989-94), a Division II school.
AP writer George Henry reports that the guy that was once considered the front-runner for the head coaching position is no longer a candidate. Henry’s report refers to 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary. Henry cites no reason or source as indicating why Singletary has supposedly fallen off the Falcons radar. According to Henry’s report, the Falcons next prospective head coaching candidate will be Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has recently become available to interview due to the Titans playoff loss on Sunday.
Today, the Falcons interviewed both prospective GM candidate Tom Heckert and also Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan for the head coaching position. ESPN reports that the Falcons postponed a planned weekend interview of a potential GM candidate from an AFC team. It’s been previously reported that the Falcons have shown interest in prospective GM candidates from the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and New England Patriots, although of course there is no confirmation that the prospective candidate was from any of these teams. ESPN also reports that the Jim Caldwell may have emerged as the front-runner, replacing Singletary, among prospective head coaches.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that the Falcons have received permission to interview the New York Giants vice president of player evaluation Chris Mara for their vacant general manager job. However, Mara has not indicated whether he actually partake in the interview. Mara is the younger brother of the Giants co-owner John Mara, and was considered the runner-up to Jerry Reese, who eventually replaced Ernie Accorsi a year ago as the team’s general manager. Accorsi is currently serving as a consultant to Arthur Blank in the Falcons search for a new GM. Although Mara’s link with ownership has made him tentative about looking at prospective jobs in the past.