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McKay finds end of bench

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McKay finds end of bench

By Jeff Schultz | Saturday, January 19, 2008, 04:53 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeff Schultz Four years ago, Arthur Blank viewed Rich McKay as his football messiah. That was fairly well known even before he admitted, I ve been dreaming more about Rich McKay for two years than I have about my own wife, which was something we basically allowed Stephanie Blank to sort out.

We now know that Blank miscalculated on McKay, whose relative unmasking as a general manager become an ugly sidebar to this Falcons season.

Executive meetings aren t held before a live studio audience, so we may never know who exerted the most influence on matters regarding hirings, signings and direction Blank or McKay. But this much is clear: McKay doesn t want to talk about it. His roughly $3 million annual contract apparently comes with a cloaking device and a mute button.

Having been to several strange news conferences including one called by Tom Cousineau specifically to announce that he wasn t homosexual, as well as several others with Don King in the center ring I can tell you that none had the bizarre overtones of Thomas Dimitroff welcoming.

It was a surprise in itself that McKay who was publicly stripped of his GM title at the end of a Blank statement on Bill Parcells showed up at the Dimitroff news conference. Maybe he just wanted to play the good soldier. Maybe he was told to play the good soldier. Maybe he had concerns about direct deposit being interrupted.

Regardless, he clearly didn t want to be there. He looked worn and distracted. He briefly sat at Blank s table but soon moved to the back of the room, which was adjacent to the door, which opened to a hallway, which led to an elevator, which descended to the garage, which is where his car was parked, waiting to take him anywhere but the palatial family offices of Arthur M. Blank.

I don t know if McKay blew out any tires when he left. But I m fairly sure he blew out the soles of his shoes.

While still in the room, two questions were directed to him. He answered from a distance. He ignored someone who tried to hand him a microphone. He said he would be there to support Dimitroff. He made some crack about his white hair. He admitted, It s been the longest 14 months of any one person s life.

But that s as much as you will read from McKay in this column. I just didn t think it was right to ask McKay a lot of questions during Dimitroff s official introduction. And when the formal news conference ended, all but one guy stayed around for extensive one-on-ones.

I turned to find McKay, but he had vanished. Sort of like he did at Flowery Branch every time a fire broke out.

A team official promised that McKay absolutely, positively, happily would be available for an interview later in the week. I m still waiting.

It s sort of like the old county-western song: If the phone don t ring, you ll know it s me.

In as a savior. Out as a ghost.

It s understandable to a degree why Blank would want to keep McKay around. He is liked and respected in the NFL office. He sits on the powerful Competition Committee. He is well versed in many things that Dimitroff isn t.

That said, any definition of healthy situation does not include the Falcons executive flow chart right now.

How can having a stripped-down executive in the front office be healthy? How can McKay function while someone else performs his former job? Does he desire to run a team again one day?

These and other questions will not be answered. The next time the Falcons hold a news conference, I ll be better prepared. I ll wear track shoes.

McKay took over in December of 2003. Six days later, the downtrodden Falcons won at Tampa Bay. The following season, they went to the NFC title game.

Then everybody and everything spiraled. The quarterback. The coach. The general manager. Now Michael Vick is in jail, Jim Mora is in Seattle. McKay remains in the executive suite, shuffling papers and planning lunches for a stadium deal.

When things started to go bad, McKay began to live down to a reputation of disappearing in times of crisis. That became even more exaggerated this season when Bobby Petrino resided here. At one point, when the Falcons were falling apart and McKay was asked about changes, he actually said his practice is not to talk about personnel issues during the season.

I m still not sure when he adopted that practice. Probably sometime after the 11-5 season. Sometime after Blank s dream.

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