Originally created 12/15/03

Falcons owner plans to talk to Bucs' McKay about GM



INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta owner Arthur Blank plans to talk to Tampa Bay's Rich McKay about becoming the Falcons' general manager.

"Two years ago, Rich was on our short list of candidates and today he's on our short list of candidates," Blank said Sunday after watching his Falcons lose to Indianapolis 38-7. "I wasn't able to talk to Rich then, we're able to talk to him now, so we're going to pursue that."

McKay was Blank's first choice for the job when he bought the team two years ago, but the Bucs wanted compensation. Blank balked, prompting McKay to sign an extension with Tampa Bay. The Falcons' GM position has remained vacant since then.

The door opened Thursday, when the Bucs said they wouldn't seek compensation if McKay walked out on the final four seasons of his $2.4 million-a-year contract.

"Rich is an unrestricted free agent today as a general manager," Blank said.

He denied reports that he has already met with McKay and also said he had no plans to meet with him Sunday.

"He certainly is extremely talented as an NFL GM and we obviously have needs," Blank said.

One of the architects of last year's Super Bowl champions, McKay has clashed with Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who denied that a rift between him and McKay is forcing a split.

McKay, whose history with Tampa Bay dates to 1976, when his father, John, became the franchise's first coach, did not attend Tampa's 16-3 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

"It's unfortunate that there is some unsettled business right now," Gruden said after the game. "I'll just finish on record as saying I've got great respect for Rich McKay, tremendous respect. I've said that since I've been here."

Blank didn't provide a specific timetable for hiring McKay or anybody else, but did say he hopes to have a general manager in place before he hires a coach to replace Dan Reeves, who was fired Wednesday.

"As soon as we can make it happen, we'll make it happen," Blank said.