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Search for GM and coach continues

POSTED: January 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.

ATLANTA — Roddy White, whose breakout season was perhaps the best thing to happen to the Atlanta Falcons in an otherwise dreary 2007, will be a big part of some new coach’s plans for 2008.

White said Thursday he’d be happy if the new man is Pete Carroll, the Southern Cal coach who is the latest name to emerge in the Falcons’ search.

"I think it’s a pretty good move," White said. "He’s a successful coach. It would be a nice change for us. He’s been an NFL coach before and he’s a players’ coach. We do have a lot of older players and I think we need somebody like that."

White, in his third season, caught 83 passes for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns. He became the first Atlanta receiver with 1,000 yards since Terance Mathis in 1999. White enjoyed consistent success despite playing with three quarterbacks as the team tried to compensate for the loss of Michael Vick.

Carroll is on vacation in Hawaii. Falcons officials on Thursday would not say if owner Arthur Blank or other team officials have had contact with Carroll.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources at the American Football Coaches Association in Anaheim, Calif., reported Blank had a telephone conversation with Carroll on Wednesday.

Carroll is 76-14 with two national championships in seven seasons at USC following an 11-2 record and No. 3 ranking this season.

Carroll was defensive coordinator for the New York Jets for four years before going 6-10 as head coach of the team in 1994. He was 28-23 with a division title and two playoff appearances as coach of the New England Patriots from 1997-99. He also coached defensive backs for the Buffalo Bills (1984) and Minnesota Vikings (1985-89).

For all that NFL experience, Carroll is best known in the league as the coach the Patriots fired to hire Bill Belichick.

Carroll has been willing to listen to other NFL teams in recent years, including the Miami Dolphins at this time last year, and he has said he might be open to the right offer — one that includes authority over personnel decisions.

The Falcons, also currently looking for a general manager, apparently would offer Carroll the final word on draft picks and trades that he lacked with the Jets and Patriots.

If Carroll or another coach were given that authority, a general manager probably would work more in the background while handling player contracts. The Falcons had such an arrangement when Harold Richardson was the general manager for most of Dan Reeves’ stay as coach.

White says Carroll looks like a good fit, even though many believed the Falcons would not dare to hire another college coach after Bobby Petrino’s disastrous 13-game stay in Atlanta. Petrino, hired from Louisville, quit the Falcons with three games left in the season to take a job with Arkansas.

"That doesn’t scare me because everybody coaches different ways, everybody has different styles," White said. "He’ll come in here with a different style on how to handle things and how to handle players. They say he’ll have more power over players and who he brings in."

After Petrino’s ugly exit, secondary coach Emmitt Thomas finished out the year on an interim basis. No one on the current staff is being considered for the permanent job.

White said he has not talked with team officials about the coach search.

"I haven’t talked to anybody," White said. "We’re just still waiting to see if he’s going to leave USC, as coach or GM or whatever. If he does, it would be a great opportunity for us."

The Falcons lost a candidate in their search for a general manager when Chris Mara of the New York Giants dropped out Thursday.

Mara, the Giants’ vice president of player evaluation, withdrew from consideration two days after interviewing with Blank.

"I have withdrawn my name from consideration for the position of general manager for the Atlanta Falcons," Mara said in a one-paragraph statement released by the Giants. "I want to thank 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 was at least the third candidate interviewed as a possible replacement for current GM Rich McKay, who is being stripped of his authority over personnel matters but was offered a two-year extension to remain as team president through 2010.

Philadelphia general manager Tom Heckert interviewed with the Falcons on Monday, looking into a job that would give him more power. With the Eagles, Heckert defers on personnel decisions to coach Andy Reid.

In addition to Mara, the Falcons met Tuesday with Gene Smith, director of college scouting for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Blank also received permission to meet with Green Bay’s Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider, the two highest-ranking officials under Packers GM Ted Thompson.

The Falcons were rebuffed by Bill Parcells, who rejected the chance to take over football operations in Atlanta and instead took a similar job in Miami.



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