The Bill Belichick-Falcons partnership prospects are heating up. Belichick arrived in Atlanta on Thursday night ahead of his second interview, Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports, and is now viewed as the top candidate for this job.
After Belichick’s first interview consisted of a one-on-one meeting with Arthur Blank, he is set to meet with other Falcons higher-ups. Belichick began his second interview with dinner Thursday, Russini adds, and CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson notes this process — Belichick’s first time on a coaching carousel in 24 years — continues to trend in a positive direction. Though, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones cautions this is not yet a done deal.
Blank, CEO Rich McKay, GM Terry Fontenot and team president Greg Beadles will be part of this second interview, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter. This meeting will double as a chance for Belichick to evaluate the Falcons as a fit, as questions will be warranted on his part. This marks Belichick’s first meeting in Atlanta, with Jones adding the interview with Blank took place on the owner’s yacht near the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Belichick held final personnel say throughout his Patriots run. While he laps Fontenot in terms of experience, the presences of the fourth-year GM and McKay — a former Falcons GM who moved up the chain in the late 2000s — create some uncertainty as to what the legendary head coach’s role would be. Belichick reaching a comfort level with McKay, a former Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers GM, will be critical here, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes. Doubt about Belichick wanting to keep the McKay-Fontenot status quo in place has emerged, per Jones. But Blank would need to naturally approve of any major front office restructuring.
One source has informed Jones that Blank “desperately” wants Belichick as his next coach and that it would be on the latter to accept the job. Even with Jones indicating the Falcons want to complete a thorough search, it would not surprise to learn of Belichick receiving an offer. The Falcons have also interviewed Jim Harbaugh and are preparing to meet with their former interim HC, Raheem Morris, on Saturday. But the team is believed to be prioritizing experience to fill its latest HC vacancy. Blank has never hired anyone with previous NFL HC experience to lead his team, and Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in league history.
While Belichick issues on the GM side recurred in New England — particularly after Tom Brady‘s 2020 exit — he continued to give the Patriots top-shelf work on the defensive side of the ball. Sixteen of New England’s Brady-era teams finished with a top-10 scoring defense, and the Pats fared well down the stretch despite losing Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez early this season. But how the Falcons would plan on structuring their front office around Belichick would double as one of this offseason’s most interesting questions. The team made a point to say Blank and McKay are leading the HC search, with Fontenot offering input. McKay soon backtracked by indicating the GM has not seen his standing diminished after three straight 7-10 seasons.
The prospect of Belichick, 72 in April, wanting familiar personnel staffers would seemingly be in play; Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge have already been rumored staff targets if Belichick does indeed become the next Falcons HC. No team has ever hired a coach older than 66 (Bruce Arians, 2019). Will the Falcons buck that trend and become the team that gives Belichick the chance to break Don Shula‘s record? The 29-year HC veteran is 14 wins away.