Giants official Mara withdraws as Falcons GM candidate

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons lost a candidate in their search for a general manager when Chris Mara of the New York Giants withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday.

Mara, the Giants' vice president of player evaluation, withdrew two days after interviewing with Falcons owner Arthur 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"I have withdrawn my name from consideration for the position of general manager for the Atlanta Falcons," Mara said in a one-paragraph statement released by the Giants.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 second 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 are running a concurrent search for a new coach, though they would prefer to have a general manager in place first.

Since being rebuffed by Bill Parcells, who rejected the chance to take over football operations in Atlanta and instead took a similar job in Miami, the most prominent name to emerge is Southern California coach Pete Carroll.

The Falcons want to speak with Carroll, who is vacationing in Hawaii. He has previously denied any interest in returning to the NFL, having coached the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

If Carroll agrees to an interview, the Falcons likely would offer a chance to both coach and control player personnel decisions.

Bobby Petrino stunningly left for Arkansas with three games left in his first season as Falcons coach, and Emmitt Thomas finished out the year on an interim basis. No one on the current staff is being considered for the permanent job.

In announcing last month that Parcells would not be coming to Atlanta, Blank revealed he also was looking for a new general manager.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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