The Atlanta Falcons have been closely linked to Bill Belichick basically ever since it became clear that he might not return to the New England Patriots. Perhaps the most successful head coach in NFL history, Belichick departed the Patriots after both sides agreed it was time to move on, and that came after an abysmal season that saw New England miles away from contention.
The question was not really whether the Falcons wanted Belichick, because that had been reported by every NFL insider with a pulse and a handful of sources for weeks. The question was whether the interest was mutual, something that had been more lightly and less thoroughly reported. With the news that the Falcons have interviewed Belichick for their opening, it’s clear that some level of interest from the legendary head coach does exist.
Legendary coach Bill Belichick and #Falcons owner Arthur Blank met in person recently to discuss Atlanta’s head coaching job, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 16, 2024
No deal is imminent. But there is mutual interest and conversations are ongoing. pic.twitter.com/Lcnpemj4bZ
Blank likely wants to get this done quickly, before the Dallas Cowboys job potentially opens up and other teams take their big swing at Belichick, but chances are that Belichick will be in no particular hurry to get a deal done after spending more than two decades in New England. The fact that the two met face-to-face—the hot rumor on Twitter was that they did so aboard Blank’s yacht, which I’m guessing was not the meeting spot for any other coaching candidates to this point—means Blank got his chance to pitch the job to Belichick with as much gusto as he possibly could.
And there’s widespread agreement that this is a job that might intrigue Belichick. I personally do not love the idea of the team shoving Terry Fontenot to the side or out of the way entirely to make room for Bill Belichick, personnel “guru,” but I have little doubt Blank would be willing to do that and shift Rich McKay’s job responsibilities around to get this done. With an organization that would grant him the power he likes to have over football operations, a roster that’s more talented than the one he’s leaving behind with the Patriots, and the chance to hand-pick his next quarterback, Belichick could land in the NFC South amidst a group of so-so teams and probably enjoy more success right away than the Falcons have seen since 2017. The man is still a damn good coach who would likely build on the defensive improvement we’ve seen to this point, and if he hires the better coaches from his tree to run the offense (Josh McDaniels vs. whatever kind of awful chimera Matt Patricia and Joe Judge were in 2022), the short-term outlook in Atlanta is likely a positive one. The Falcons mightily underachieved versus their potential in 2023, and that’s not something we’re likely to say about a Belichick-led squad in 2024.
The long-term outlook is shakier, especially if Belichick gets that personnel power, because there’s little question that Belichick the coach was continually undercut by Belichick the general manager, to the point where there was barely a credible NFL offense on the field for the Patriots by 2023. I’d like this hire a lot better if the Falcons were keeping their front office more or less intact and letting Belichick focus on the coaching, but I don’t think Belichick would be particularly intrigued by that and I don’t think Blank will stand firm on it. There’s also the question of how Belichick’s abrasive style and domineering ways will mesh with an organization he is new to, rather than the one he just left where his influence was total and he had an incredible amount of success to point to. The Falcons are making this hire knowing that they probably only have a handful of years with Belichick at the helm; they more or less have to be successful immediately to make landing him worthwhile.
But all of this is thinking ahead to a hire that isn’t inevitable just yet. Blank is clearly enamored with the idea of adding the best coach in NFL history and is counting on Belichick bringing that level of success to Atlanta, recent years and post-Tom Brady woes be damned. Whether he can convince Belichick that this is the right spot to spend the twilight of his career and chase more rings remains to be seen, but if Belichick isn’t the hire when all is said and done, it damn sure won’t be because the Falcons lacked interest.