Inside Bill Belichick’s failed offseason job hunt

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# Inside Bill Belichick’s unsuccessful attempt to find a job

Apr 17, 2024, 07:00 AM ET

Reported by Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham, and Jeremy Fowler

On Jan. 25, before Raheem Morris was named as the Atlanta Falcons’ new head coach, Bill Belichick thought he had secured the position. Belichick, the second-winningest head coach in NFL history, had gone through two rounds of interviews with the Falcons. He had met with team owner Arthur Blank on his superyacht and later had a detailed discussion with Blank and team executives at Blank’s residence after flying to Atlanta on one of Blank’s private jets. Belichick felt confident that he had done everything right, even though he was out of work for the first time since 1996. Despite recent struggles, including losing seasons and strained relationships with key figures like Tom Brady and the Kraft family, Belichick remained positive about his chances, especially in a crowded field of 14 candidates for the Falcons’ head coaching position. However, he was surprised to learn that Morris landed the job.

Blank explained that Morris was the right fit for the Falcons, without explicitly mentioning the reasons why Belichick was not selected. While Blank spoke highly of Belichick’s legendary coaching career, it was revealed later that Belichick did not rank in the top three choices among the decision-makers. This turn of events left Belichick without a coaching job in 2024.

The NFL has moved past the coaching carousel cycle this year, shifting focus to free agency and the upcoming draft. The question remains: Why has Bill Belichick suddenly struggled to find employment, and will he coach again? The shift in ownership preferences has played a significant role in Belichick’s challenges. Many team owners now prioritize collaboration and teamwork among their coaching staff and front office, steering away from granting one individual the extensive control Belichick had in New England. Belichick’s unique leadership style and the strained relationship between him and the Krafts have also contributed to his difficulties in securing a new coaching position.

Despite Belichick’s unparalleled success, he is finding fewer suitors due to the evolving landscape of team ownership preferences. His former dominance in the league now limits his options as he searches for his next coaching opportunity. Belichick’s willingness to adapt to the changing dynamics was evident during interviews with the Falcons, where he expressed readiness to work within a new organizational structure. However, his assurances failed to sway Blank and the team executives, ultimately leading to his exclusion from consideration for the Falcons’ head coaching role.

Looking ahead, Belichick is expected to engage in analysis work for Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, buying time until potential coaching vacancies arise in teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants – organizations he has shown interest in coaching. Despite his legacy, doubts loom over Belichick’s return to a head coaching role in the NFL, except under specific circumstances like coaching for Jerry Jones.

Belichick’s determination to defy the odds, evident in historic comebacks like Super Bowl LI, contrasts with the current challenges he faces in finding a coaching position that aligns with his leadership style and philosophies.Belichick was on the verge of parting ways with the Patriots after the 2022 season, but Jonathan Kraft convinced him otherwise as they aimed to strengthen their collaboration. Belichick acknowledged that his time with New England was ending as the team struggled, emphasizing the importance of a strong coach-owner relationship. He expressed gratitude towards the Patriots but hinted at moving on to new opportunities ahead.

Following the season, Belichick attracted interest from various NFL teams, including the Eagles, Cowboys, and Washington Commanders. While there was speculation about potential fits, each team had its reasons for not pursuing Belichick. The Eagles were hesitant due to concerns about starting from scratch with Belichick’s leadership style, the Cowboys opted to retain Mike McCarthy, and Washington preferred a strong GM structure over a head coach-centric approach.

Discussions also arose with the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers, but both teams ultimately chose other coaching options. Belichick’s tenure with the Patriots continued as he signed a two-year extension. The Falcons emerged as a contender, with owner Arthur Blank meeting Belichick for a promising interview aboard his yacht. Despite initial enthusiasm, the momentum waned in the following weeks, leading to further discussions within the Falcons organization.

As teams evaluated their coaching prospects, Belichick’s stature and track record generated interest and deliberation across the league. While some teams hesitated due to various concerns and preferences, Belichick remained a prominent figure in the NFL coaching landscape.In a conversation with Blank, Kraft gave a blunt assessment of Belichick’s character. A source reported that Kraft warned Blank not to trust Belichick. Kraft’s friend supported this account. Kraft was said to speak candidly to Blank about Belichick, indicating that Kraft played a significant role in the Falcons not hiring Belichick.

Kraft emphasized to Blank that building a warm relationship with Belichick would be challenging, as Belichick was deemed difficult and stubborn, unlike what Blank preferred in coaches. Kraft had expressed similar sentiments to those close to him over time. There was a breakdown in trust between Kraft and Belichick, leading to their strained working relationship and the end of the Patriot Way.

Despite reports suggesting Kraft spoke negatively about Belichick to Blank, a Patriots spokesman vehemently denied this claim. The spokesman stated that Kraft had never questioned Belichick’s character or trustworthiness, emphasizing Kraft’s long-standing employment of Belichick.

If the Falcons had hired Belichick, the reported high salary demanded by him would have been covered by Blank. There were speculations about Kraft’s motives in keeping Belichick away from coaching success.

Kraft’s criticism of Belichick took place before the release of the docuseries “The Dynasty,” where Kraft was depicted as blaming Belichick for past issues and clashes with Brady. Kraft later distanced himself from the project, expressing disappointment over its negative focus.

During a meeting with the Falcons, Belichick suggested changes that were not aligned with the team’s practices. Concerns about working with Belichick were raised by Falcons executives, leading to doubts about his compatibility with the organization’s structure.

Despite Belichick feeling positive about the meeting, the Falcons’ executives were apprehensive about working with him, viewing him as a potentially disruptive force within the team environment.The wins record, as per a source. Additionally, Blank dislikes coaching searches and would not want to go through another one.

The executives were also worried about the personnel that Belichick would bring along, which included former assistants from New England who had struggled in their own coaching roles. Among them were Josh McDaniels, Joe Judge, Jack Easterby, and Matt Patricia. Blank even questioned Belichick about why these individuals had not succeeded elsewhere, to which Belichick responded that he believed they were better suited as followers rather than leaders.

A source close to Belichick mentioned that the coach had reservations about the Falcons’ team roster and felt that he would require his trusted former assistants to quickly turn things around. Belichick expressed to a confidant that the Patriots’ recent underperformance was partly due to the departure of some of these former assistants.

Another factor for the Falcons to consider was Belichick’s age. A source suggested that if Belichick were younger, there might have been a different outcome. Ultimately, Blank, who tends to avoid conflicts, was influenced by his top advisors’ opposition to hiring Belichick. Despite this, Belichick was granted a second interview with the Falcons as a sign of respect.

While the media portrayed Belichick as the front-runner for the Falcons’ head coaching position, it was Raheem Morris who impressed the team with his interview. Morris, a former head coach with Tampa Bay and a key figure in the Rams’ coaching staff, emerged as the top choice due to his excellent interview and comprehensive football knowledge.

Morris found himself in a situation similar to Belichick’s in 2000, at a career crossroads and determined to prove himself as a capable head coach. Ultimately, Blank and the Falcons executives decided to offer Morris the job, leading to Belichick being eliminated from the running.

Looking ahead, Belichick, who once stated he wouldn’t coach into his 70s but will be 73 when the 2025 season begins, anticipates receiving at least one coaching interview next year. Potential landing spots could include Dallas if the Cowboys part ways with Mike McCarthy. Belichick hopes for an opportunity in the Northeast to facilitate his former assistants joining him with minimal disruption.

Belichick has plans to travel, engage with football programs, and write a book focused on football leadership, akin to Bill Walsh’s influential work, “Finding the Winning Edge.” Belichick’s system of accountability has been shaped by his extensive experience as a coach. Despite his coaching aspirations, Belichick’s recent job hunt and criticisms of the “Patriot Way” have prompted introspection and a desire to share his knowledge through writing.

In conclusion, Belichick remains open to coaching opportunities while also exploring other avenues to contribute to football through his writings and engagements within the sport.

Source: ESPN ([Source link](

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