Atlanta interviews former Texans GM Rick Smith

Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons ramped up their search for a general manager Friday by conducting virtual interviews with former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith and the team’s director of college scouting, Anthony Robinson.

The Falcons are seeking a replacement for long-time GM Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with coach Dan Quinn after the team started the season 0-5.

President and CEO Rich McKay has been handling the GM role on an interim basis for the Falcons (4-9), who are assured of their third straight losing season. Dimitroff’s ultimate successor will likely have a significant say in who becomes the next coach.

Raheem Morris has been serving as interim coach, but it’s not known if he’ll be a serious candidate to land the job permanently.

Smith served as general manager of the Texans from 2006-17, also holding the title of executive vice president of football operations beginning in 2012. He took a leave of absence to help his wife wage a battle against breast cancer and did not return to the organization.

Smith was just the second Black GM in the NFL after Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome.

Robinson, who is also Black, has been in the Falcons’ personnel department for 13 years. This is the second year as the director of college scouting.

The NFL has mandated that any interviews conducted before the end of the regular season must be done virtually because of COVID-19 protocols.

After the season, interviews can be conducted in person if a candidate’s team has been eliminated from the playoffs. If their team is still participating in the postseason, the interview must be done virtually.

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