Falcons Will Allow New GM to Part Ways with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2020

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) speaks with wide receiver Julio Jones (11) during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 21-16. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Danny Karnik/Associated Press

It may be difficult to envision the current iteration of the Atlanta Falcons without Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but team president Rich McKay said the next general manager will have the freedom to move on from the pair as long as there is a plan in place.  

"Give us a plan," McKay said when asked what his reaction would be to a general manager candidate expressing a desire to go a different direction, per Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney of The Athletic. "Show us what you want to do and show us why. Show us how this gets us to Ws and make sure you actually execute the plan."

McKay made his first public comments to reporters since Atlanta fired general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn in October and made it clear he will not stand in the way of the next hire's job.

"Hey, listen: You're the GM," McKay said. "Whatever [part of the job] you can take, you take. Whatever you can't take, I'll help."

Schultz and McElhaney noted the NFC South team considers 11 or 12 of the "20 to 25" general manager candidates it has vetted as legitimate options as it looks to re-establish itself as a winning franchise following what will be a third straight losing season.

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The 2020 campaign has been defined by blown leads down the stretch of games, bringing back painful memories for Falcons fans of the 28-3 advantage it lost in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots that ended the 2016 season.

Ryan has been the franchise quarterback for Atlanta since it selected him with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft. He has a league MVP and four Pro Bowls on his resume and just passed Fran Tarkenton for 10th on the NFL's all-time touchdown pass list during Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones has been with the Falcons since they selected him with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft and is one of the best receivers of his generation as a seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection.

Still, Jones turns 32 in February, while Ryan is 35 years old. Moving on from both would also clear up salary-cap space, which would facilitate a rebuild in the coming years for whoever is in charge of football moves.

It would be a drastic change for the franchise, but the next general manager will apparently have the clearance to do so as long as there is a solid line of thinking that goes into such a decision.