(this article was originally published on Oct. 16, 2023 on Patriots Football Now)
With the New England Patriots having lost five of their first six games, the job security of Bill Belichick has become a weekly topic of conversation. It only took an 0-and-2 start for Boston sports radio to start calling for his dismissal (again). Now at 1-and-5 on the season, chatter of Bill Belichick being replaced is starting to become shouts. What once seemed like a trolling minority has become a vocal majority.
Perhapsthese people will get their wish and there will be a new leader in Foxboro in 2024. But change with the New England Patriots will not signal the end of Bill Belichick’s NFL coaching career. The winningest NFL head coach of the Super Bowl Era will be on somebody’s sideline in 2024.
The reasons for not firing Bill Belichick have been detailed previously on PFN. Giving him through the 2024 season to get things in good shape seems more than fair for a man who has won six Super Bowls in New England, including one just five seasons ago. But Jeff Howe of The Athletic wrote that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft would be willing to fire Belichick.
Howe could be correct, but there is no way to know for sure unless Kraft does fire Belichick. If that happens, Bill Belichick is not necessarily done coaching in the National Football League. Patriots legend turned NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi stated on ESPN’s pregame show Sunday that he hoped his former coach won a respectable number of games (six or seven) and then left on his own after the season. There is a very good chance that will not happen.
Don Shula’s Record
Bill Belichick currently sits behind Don Shula for the most coaching wins in NFL history. He needs 17 wins to tie Shula in total wins, and 29 to catch him for most regular season wins. But Tedy Bruschi pointed out that Belichick has Shula beat where it matters most: Super Bowl wins. Bruschi believes Belichick has nothing left to prove, but Bill Belichick might feel different.
It is well known what a football historian Bill Belichick is. The opportunity to make even more of it himself good be too much to pass up. Especially if Belichick has the chance to surpass a coach in Don Shula who once referred to him as “Beli-cheat.”
Precedent Set by Other Greats
The idea that Bill Belichick wouldn’t finish his career with the Patriots if he lost his job in New England is not tough to imagine. Many Pro Football Hall of Fame head coaches have finished their career away from where they built their reputation.
Paul Brown, considered by Belichick to be the greatest football coach of all-time, finished his coaching career with the Cincinnati Bengals after having spent 17 years with the Cleveland Browns.
Curly Lambeau has the Green Bay Packers home stadium named in his honor. After 29 seasons as head coach of that franchise, he closed out his career spending two years each as the head coach of the Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins.
Vince Lombardi also spent his final season in Washington after having won five championships in Green Bay.
Bill Parcells, one of Belichick’s own bosses, was practically a football nomad after winning two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. He would go on to coach the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys.
And obviously legends ending elsewhere is not limited to coaches. Tom Brady finished his career as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in case anyone forgot.
Getting Head Coach Offers is a Given
Going with the presumption that Robert Kraft does fire Bill Belichick, yet the coach is not done coaching, what happens next?
Landing a job elsewhere would not be a problem. Whether or not Belichick is given the same level of control over an organization can be debated, but him receiving offers to be a head coach elsewhere is not up for debate. The day after he (hypothetically) lost his job with the New England Patriots, he would have multiple offers to choose from.
Who Leaves with Him?
Bill Belichick has been an NFL coach for 49 years, so he has connections well beyond his current coaching room. That said, his sons could certainly be among those on his staff with a new franchise. If the New England Patriots hire Jerod Mayo to be their next head coach, for example, who would stay in Foxboro and who would exit with Bill Belichick?
Having Steve Belichick as defensive coordinator and Brian Belichick as his defensive backs coach would be a solid start to a new staff. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien might join him as well. Or, if they are fired from their current head coaching gigs, perhaps the Raiders Josh McDaniels or Giants Brian Daboll would be his OC, depending on where Belichick lands.
Would other members of the New England Patriots front office and coaching staff prefer joining a potentially plush situation with Bill Belichick, or staying behind to help Jerod Mayo rebuild? That might depend on where Belichick goes.
Belichick’s Options for 2024
Again, all of this is being analyzed under the lens that Robert Kraft proves Jeff Howe right and does in fact fire Bill Belichick. This writer is still not sold on that being true. However, for the sake of the exercise, the assumptions that:
- Robert Kraft was willing to fire Bill Belichick
- Robert Kraft did fire Bill Belichick
With that in mind, a look at eight potential landing spots next season…
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera is already on the hot seat without Bill Belichick being an available candidate. Their defensive front of Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Chase Young would be an enticing group for Belichick to work with. Washington is also projected to have the most cap space available to spend in 2024. If the nation’s capital was a worthy spot for Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi to end their NFL coaching careers, why not Bill Belichick?
Matt Eberflus is another head coach lacking job security. The Chicago Bears are a legendary franchise that has not had a legendary team in nearly 40 years. Not only do they have their own first round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but they also have the winless Panthers’ first-round pick as well. This means the first two picks in next year’s draft will belong to Chicago. They trial only the Commanders in projected cap space. Could Bill Belichick occupy the Chicago sidelines once roamed by George Halas?
If the Cowboys fail to make some noise in the postseason, Jerry Jones could easily be in the market to replace Mike McCarthy. Hard to imagine the owner/GM of the Dallas Cowboys not being interested in bringing Bill Belichick aboard to help end their 30-year Super Bowl drought. Again, legendary franchise, willing to spend money, and already have quality pieces in place such as edge defender Micah Parsons.
If the Buffalo Bills fall short of a Super Bowl appearance again this year, will ownership be ready to replace Sean McDermott? There are currently cries to get rid of OC Ken Dorsey, as the team risks wasting the prime of QB Josh Allen’s career. With a championship-caliber team already in place, perhaps a championship-caliber coach could get them over the top? Wonder how Robert Kraft and New England Patriots would feel about seeing him on the opposing sidelines twice a year.
The franchise for whom Bill Belichick began his head coaching career could bring him back to finish there. The Browns have never won a Super Bowl, so one must imagine the franchise and city are desperate to do so. Cleveland has an excellent defense already in place, which would be a strong selling point to a free agent coach that loves defense. Things did not end the way Belichick would have liked his first go-around with the Browns, as the team moved to Baltimore and the “new” Ravens franchise replaced Cleveland’s head coach. Would be an interesting bookend to his tenure with the New England Patriots.
New York Giants
Speaking of returning to former homes, Bill Belichick got his career has a “defensive genius” as defensive coordinator of two Super Bowl teams with the Giants. There is no question Belichick has great respect for the franchise and their ownership. It would be even more of a homecoming than Cleveland. The Giants are only one season removed from a playoff appearance under Brian Daboll. New York might not be ready to make a change yet, but Belichick would be tempting. But would the Giants be tempting to Belichick? They are currently the NFL team that most resembles the 2023 New England Patriots. They also have more money tied up in their QB Daniel Jones, thus, far less to improve the team with in free agency.
New York Jets
The Jets defense is awesome. They took out the Philadelphia Eagles this week even without their top two cornerbacks. Next season they are presumably getting QB Aaron Rodgers back. Would the man who once resigned as “HC of the NYJ” return to coach them? Crazier things have happened. And if Robert Kraft kicked Belichick to the curb, any location feels like fair game. Would the New York Jets want Bill Belichick? Well, their only Super Bowl title came while Charlie Chaplin was still alive and Neil Armstrong had yet to set foot on the moon. If owner Woody Johnson thought Belichick gave him a better chance at winning a championship than Robert Saleh, and especially if Aaron Rodgers thought so, the offer would be on the table.
Los Angeles Chargers
Rounding out the list with another franchise void of a Super Bowl championship. Nobody screams “Los Angeles” like Bill Belichick. The Chargers are currently 2-and-2 on the season, so they could go finish anywhere from Super Bowl champs to out of the playoffs. Head coach Brandon Staley has been sitting on the hot seat in L.A. for quite some time. If the Chargers are deemed to be underachievers again in 2023, a change could be on the horizon. With QB Justin Herbert in place, this would be a very appealing job opening. And perhaps after 40 years battling the winters of New York, Cleveland and New England, finishing out on the west coast with a star quarterback would be the perfect setting for Bill Belichick in 2024.