Bill Belichick, perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history, was available as eight teams hired new coaches in recent weeks and others contemplated making a change. The Atlanta Falcons interviewed him twice. The Washington Commanders spoke with him but didn’t pursue him. No team hired Belichick, and his absence from the league’s coaching ranks will continue to generate plenty of intrigue.
The New England Patriots parted ways last month with Belichick, 71, after 24 seasons and six Super Bowl titles. He and the Patriots had struggled in the four seasons since quarterback Tom Brady’s departure, bottoming out this season with a 4-13 record. Even so, this was Bill Belichick becoming available. Teams the Patriots, Belichick and Brady had dominated for two decades suddenly had their chance to tap into that dynastic success.
None did. And barring a late surprise, the 2024 season will begin in September without Belichick patrolling a sideline as a head coach for the first time since 1999.
There has been some speculation about the possibility of Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid retiring after Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup with the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas. Such conjecture is nothing new. Reid dismissed similar retirement talk after the Chiefs’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s Super Bowl.
“Listen,” Reid said following that game, “if they’ll have me, I’ll stick around.”
If Reid, 65, does retire this time, the Chiefs could consider Belichick to step in and guide a championship-ready team with an all-time-great quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. That is a setup that Belichick knows well. But if Reid coaches on, Belichick would have to wait for his next NFL head coaching opportunity.
Belichick wouldn’t be the only prominent coach on the outside looking in. Neither Mike Vrabel, the 2021 NFL coach of the year fired by the Tennessee Titans, nor Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl-winning coach who reluctantly agreed to step aside with the Seattle Seahawks, was among the coaches hired during this cycle. But only one of them is 14 victories shy of Don Shula’s NFL record of 347 career wins, including the postseason. Only one has a record 31 postseason wins. That’s Belichick.
Belichick’s only known interviews during this cycle came with the Falcons. The first is believed to have involved only Belichick and Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The second reportedly included other Falcons officials, including General Manager Terry Fontenot and Rich McKay, the team’s chief executive. The Falcons ended up hiring Raheem Morris, the former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who most recently had been the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator.
The Falcons declined to comment in recent days about their interactions with Belichick, pending Morris’s introductory news conference Monday. But some in the league believe the Falcons’ interest in Belichick was driven primarily by Blank while others within the organization favored Morris, formerly the team’s interim coach, all along. Support for Morris eventually won out.
Belichick was not available to comment.
The Commanders also were involved with Belichick, though to a lesser extent. Their new general manager, Adam Peters, has a relationship with Belichick, and the two spoke, according to a person familiar with the matter. But that person described it as a “kick the tires” conversation that “really didn’t go anywhere.” The Commanders never interviewed Belichick and, according to that person, never came close to hiring him. They hired Dan Quinn, who once coached the Falcons to the Super Bowl and most recently had been the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.
It’s not known which other teams, if any, spoke with Belichick. People with multiple teams involved in the hiring cycle said Belichick’s side was proactive in initiating dialogue.
It was a hiring cycle in which several teams opted for youth. Jerod Mayo, 37, became the NFL’s youngest head coach when the Patriots promoted him from linebackers coach the day after parting with Belichick. Mayo lost that distinction when the Seahawks hired Mike Macdonald, the 36-year-old defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Brian Callahan, hired by the Titans, is 39. Dave Canales, hired by the Carolina Panthers, is 42. Antonio Pierce, hired by the Las Vegas Raiders after serving as their interim coach for nine games, is 45. Morris is 47.
Belichick had the final say over the Patriots’ roster, and it’s not clear how much authority he would have wanted with the Falcons, Commanders or another team. But some in the league believe that many teams were seeking coaching candidates with a reputation for being collaborative on roster construction.
Belichick’s inability to develop a franchise quarterback with the Patriots following Brady’s departure also may have worked against him. The Patriots used a first-round draft pick on Mac Jones in 2021 and reached the playoffs in his rookie season. But Jones has struggled over the past two seasons. Only one team with a head coaching vacancy this offseason has a bona fide franchise quarterback in place. That’s the Los Angeles Chargers, with Justin Herbert. They hired Jim Harbaugh.
Barring the unlikely prospect of Belichick pursuing an assistant coach position, some associates and others in and around the league expect him to consider offers for broadcasting jobs, particularly as a studio analyst. He can be engaging and insightful on air when he chooses, in contrast to his often gruff and evasive news conference persona as a coach. He drew praise and won a Sports Emmy for his studio work on an NFL Network series about the top 100 players and coaches in league history. He donned a 1962 Navy football helmet during an appearance on ESPN’s set at this season’s Army-Navy Game in Foxborough, Mass.
All the while, he could prepare for the next hiring cycle, when he could be an attractive candidate for a team with an established quarterback and championship aspirations that has been unable to win a title. That description could fit the Cowboys, Eagles or Buffalo Bills if they fail to advance further than they did this season.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told Yahoo Sports last week at the Senior Bowl that he knows and likes Belichick and there is “no doubt” the two could work together. Coach Mike McCarthy’s contract expires after next season.
Even after being passed over this time, Belichick is unlikely to be forgotten as an NFL coaching candidate.