NFC South: Rick Smith

For those of you who have sort of forgotten about Rich McKay since he left his role as the Atlanta Falcons general manager after the 2007 season, here’s a reminder that he still remains a powerful force in the NFC South and the NFL. Heck, aside from Jerry Richardson who's heading the owners in the labor talks, I think you could make an argument that McKay is the most important figure in the NFC South.

The league announced Tuesday that McKay will serve as chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. McKay’s been on the committee since 1994, when he was the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and started serving as co-chairman in 1998. But this latest move is a step up for McKay, who had been co-chairman with Jeff Fisher since 2001. With Fisher leaving the Tennessee Titans and no longer coaching, McKay is now a one-man show at the top of this committee.

McKay became Atlanta’s team president in 2008 when the Falcons hired general manager Thomas Dimitroff. A lot of people think McKay’s role was narrowed strictly to running the team’s business operations. But that’s never really been the true story.

While Dimitroff handles the traditional roles of a general manager, McKay has continued to help with salary-cap management and is sometimes turned to for advice on football matters. He also is the point man for the new open-air stadium owner Arthur Blank wants built in downtown Atlanta.

McKay also has been Atlanta’s main liaison to the league, and that now has been underscored with his role as chairman. He should help give the Falcons some clout when it comes to proposed rule changes and similar matters.

For the record, McKay is the only NFC South representative on the competition committee. The other members are Stephen Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals), John Mara (New York Giants), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Bill Polian (Indianapolis Colts) and Rick Smith (Houston Texans).

There also is a coaches’ subcommittee to the competition committee and there is one NFC South figure there. That’s New Orleans Saints' Sean Payton. The other members of the subcommittee are John Madden, John Harbaugh (Ravens), Mike Holmgren (Cleveland Browns), Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles), Steve Spagnuolo (St. Louis Rams), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Norv Turner (San Diego Chargers) and Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona Cardinals).

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