Atlanta set to interview Eagles' Heckert on Monday

Updated: January 4, 2008, 8:50 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- The quest for a new general manager will take a back seat to the Atlanta Falcons' simultaneous search of head coaching candidates for a few days, but it is scheduled to resume again Monday when officials meet with current Philadelphia Eagles GM Tom Heckert.

Heckert, 40, comes highly recommended for the job by Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie and he would become the third known candidate to meet with Atlanta owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay about the position. The interview is likely to be conducted in Atlanta, unlike interviews earlier this week with Green Bay director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie and Packers' personnel analyst John Schneider, which took place in Green Bay.

The potential move would seem like a lateral one for Heckert on the surface, but iit clearly represents upward mobility, since he would oversee the Falcons' football operation. Heckert has the general manager title in Philadelphia, but it is head coach Andy Reid who holds so-called "final say authority" on personnel matters.

In seven seasons with the Eagles, Heckert has engineered very productive drafts, and has built an impressive track record as a talent evaluator. Philadelphia promoted him to general manager in 2006, when the Minnesota Vikings considered him for the same position.

Before joining the Eagles in 2001, Heckert worked in the Miami Dolphins' personnel department for 10 years. His father was also a longtime Dolphins personnel official.

On Wednesday, Blank and McKay interviewed McKenzie and Schneider. The two were set to meet with Indianapolis vice president of football operations Chris Polian on Thursday about the GM job, but he opted to remove himself from consideration.

On the coaching front, Falcons officials will be in Dallas on Friday to interview two candidates, Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. On Thursday, the Falcons interviewed Colts' assistant head coach Jim Caldwell for the job.

Teams seeking new head coaches can interview assistants from clubs with playoff byes this week, but the sessions must take place by Saturday. After that, coaches from playoff franchises can only be interviewed after their teams are eliminated, or during the "open" week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. That's why the Falcons made it a priority to squeeze in interviews with Caldwell, Sparano and Garrett this week.

Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will meet with Atlanta officials early next week about the head coach position. It is believed that Ryan, who technically was fired with the rest of coach Brian Billick's staff earlier this week, will interview for the Baltimore job this weekend. He is also a candidate for the Miami Dolphins' head coach position, although an interview there has yet to be arranged.

Head coach Bobby Petrino resigned from the Falcons with three games remaining in his first season to accept the job at the University of Arkansas. The general manager vacancy was created when Blank subsequently announced that McKay would lose his oversight of the personnel department.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com

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