What I liked about the press conference was this statement right here:
Rich McKay wrote:
We don't have to have anything in our mind to play next year and win. But we do need a lot of players and good players to build on for the future. And to me, what need gets down to is looking at your players: who's getting older, who's coming out of contract, who are the potential free agents -- who do you need to get guys behind and grow.
This is exactly what a good GM does. Basically you use free agency to get your roster set for the season. If you don't have starters in place at every position by draft day, you're going to be in big trouble.
A perfect example of this is the Dallas Cowboys. Although the Cowboys made some big splashes in free agency, they still have some holes left on that roster in the starting lineup. I see holes at RT, RDE, and FS. Now, there is hope in Dallas that Jacob Rogers and possible Pete Hunter can fill two of these holes, but basically the Cowboys are entering this year's draft thinking that they won't know until after the draft. If they can add 3 top players at those 3 positions, then they won't need guys like Rogers, Hunter, and Eric Ogbogu to be the starters for them. But that IMO is a mistake. Instead of paying huge sums of money for guys like Marco Rivera and Jason Ferguson, it may have been a better strategy to go after 2nd tier guys at those positions and use the excess $$$ to fill those other areas.
Now I know the Cowboys have 2 first round picks, so they have a good shot at filling 2 of those 3 key needs early on, but it sort of pigeonholes them into drafting a few positions. Can the Cowboys "risk" taking a WR at #20 like a Mark Clayton, while a player like Jammal Brown or Brodney Pool fills a larger need, and there's no guarantee a quality player will be avaialble at those positions come Round 2 and 3? That's a very hard question the Cowboys have to ask themselves. Clayton, arguably the better player overall will enter the season as the No. 4 WR, while both Brown and Pool could start right away. Sure, a WR probably has the greater long-term value than a RT or FS, but all are expected to be solid players in this league. So the Cowboys are in a bit of a pickle. It's not something that is impossible to get out of, but they may find themselves taking Brown or Pool not because their the best option, but because they fear the dropoff in quality after those players at those positions.
Now this doesn't mean the Falcons have concerns as well. But the Falcons are prepared and willing
to enter this season with certain players at certain positions, notably LT, LG, NT, and SS. Sure, the Falcons would love to upgrade all 4 positions in the draft with a top notch player, but the team is not locked into taking a player high at any of those positions. I stress willingness, because in the Cowboys case, I don't think they are willing to enter this year with guys like Hunter, Ogbogu, and Rogers as their top options at their weak spots. If you're not happy with your starting lineup come Draft Saturday, I think it is putting towards the wrong path, which is making reaches and poor choices.
Now the Falcons are in the business of building a perennial winner. The Cowboys on the other hand are probably looking more short-term since Bill Parcells has no desire to make a long-term commitment to the franchise at this point in his career. He's a guy that commits year to year. See if the situation was reversed, I'd be much more certain the Falcons would take Clayton because he has greater long term value & potential, because that's the sort of mindset McKay is in.
Rich McKay wrote:
I've never been one who believed that the draft is going to provide the impetus to winning the next season. What the draft provides the impetus to do is to win for a long period of time.
Another telling quote from McKay. Again, McKay is trying to build a tradition of winning, something that Ron Wolf did in Green Bay in the early 90s, Tom Donahoe helped do in Pittsburgh in the 80s and 90s, Bill Walsh with the 49ers in the 80s, what Belichick & Pioli are doing in New England now, and several other examples. Without the contributions of these men, these teams would not have carried their tradition of winning into years after their departure.
McKay knows that Rome is not built in a day, and he hopes for success in 2005, but he is always hoping for success in 2015, probably when he is long gone from the organization. He wants people to look back 10 or so years from now and say that the Atlanta Falcons now are successful every season because McKay turned that organization into a winner. And that takes time, so McKay is in no rush to field a Super Bowl team. I'm sure he's much aware that the success we had last season was due mostly to overachieving, particularly on the defensive side of the ball (why he is still stressing defensive improvement) and an overall weakness of competition in the NFC. I look at it like this, if you switched the Bills and Falcons, or Falcons and Jaguars, the results probably would have been the same, meaning the Bills/Jags probably would have gone to the NFC Championship game, while the Falcons may have missed the playoffs.
Now I realize McKay is not going to strike gold every year in terms of free agency and the draft. I still believe the biggest mistake McKay made this off-season was not securing better depth at QB. But unlike Reeves, I know McKay has a good head on his shoulders and I know the team is headed in the right direction and should be able to stay the course for upcoming years.