The Falcons look to be moving closer to one of the highest-profile coaching hires in NFL history. Arthur Blank has never hired a head coach that had held the position before, but this weekend’s second interview could well lead to an agreement.
Bill Belichick‘s upcoming meeting with a Falcons executive committee — after the first interview consisted of just Belichick and Blank — is expected to double as one in which the 29-year veteran HC inquires about how a prospective partnership would work rather than Falcons brass interviewing the accomplished leader, Mark Maske of the Washington Post notes. Given Belichick’s experience, the Falcons needing to sell him as much as the other way around makes sense. It is not certain Belichick will not take other interviews, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio indicates league buzz is pointing to the six-time Super Bowl winner ending up in Georgia.
Atlanta remaining in the thick of this pursuit despite Dallas and Philadelphia enduring embarrassing playoff losses is notable, and perhaps telling. Some in league circles believe the Cowboys and Eagles showed interest in Belichick, according to Florio. The Cowboys have since announced they are retaining Mike McCarthy for a fifth season, while the Eagles may be settling on Nick Sirianni retooling his staff. Philly is already believed to have put out feelers to coordinators, pointing to a Sirianni fourth season in charge. Thus far, Belichick has only met with the Falcons.
In order to fire coaches who have accomplished what Sirianni and McCarthy have, the NFC East teams would need to be confident they could lure a better coach. On the Belichick front, Florio adds the all-time great may be done with big-market media. After coaching 24 seasons in the Boston area, Belichick coming to Atlanta would bring a change of pace. That said, Belichick’s presence would naturally make whatever team he ends up a frequent topic of discussion. Low-key NFL teams certainly do exist; the Falcons have operated as one in recent years. But the concept of Belichick residing off the mainstream radar — as he changes teams and sits 14 wins shy of Don Shula‘s all-time wins record — would be difficult to imagine.
If Belichick is truly zeroing in on Atlanta, he would obviously bring credentials that lap the rest of Blank’s hires. The longtime owner saw this firsthand, via Super Bowl LI, and Belichick the coach would provide a major upgrade — particularly on the defensive side. The subject of personnel power would become more complicated. Belichick excelled for years in this area, his issues drafting first-round wideouts notwithstanding, but has struggled recently. The Falcons made a point to say GM Terry Fontenot was not leading this HC search but belatedly said the fourth-year exec’s role has not diminished. It would be interesting to see Belichick, 71, cede power to Fontenot, 43, with the Falcons. The NFC South club could also consider bringing in personnel staffers more familiar with the coach.
On that note, some around the league also believe Belichick would probably reunite with assistants Josh McDaniels, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia were he to become the next Falcons HC, Maske adds. Belichick’s sons, Steve and Brian, are believed to have an opportunity to stay in New England under Jerod Mayo. But it would stand to reason the assistants will be wanted in Atlanta should their father sign on.
McDaniels’ failures as a head coach aside, he provided considerable value under Bill Belichick in New England. The polarizing play-caller was on staff for all six New England Super Bowl wins, the final three coming when he was in place as offensive coordinator. The Patriots’ freefall post-McDaniels probably should not be overlooked. Patricia stands as a key of that downslide, with Belichick strangely installing him as the 2022 team’s primary offensive play-caller. Patricia and Judge, fired by the Giants after two seasons, held the keys on offense for the ’22 Pats edition. Belichick was believed to have wanted Patricia to stay in 2023, rather than the team hiring Bill O’Brien.
Would the Falcons be willing to go with a Patriots South setup? They would be far from the only team to sign up for a Patriot Way effort, but this endeavor would be a bit different, seeing as the architect would be coming rather than a lieutenant being tasked with replicating Belichick’s approach.
The Falcons have already interviewed six other candidates, satisfying their Rooney Rule requirements in the process. The team is set to meet with Rams DC Raheem Morris on Saturday. While Morris is a former Falcons interim HC who spent six years with the team under Dan Quinn, he may not have left on bad terms. But Belichick buzz has overshadowed the Falcons’ search thus far. We could be days away from the former Browns and Patriots HC receiving a third opportunity, one that would put him in position to break Shula’s record, which has stood since 1995.