NFL Rumors: Falcons Ranked These 3 Candidates Ahead of ‘Blindsided’ Bill Belichick

Atlanta Falcons executives reportedly agreed on the same top three candidates for their head coaching vacancy, and none were Bill Belichick.

Bill Belichick once was viewed as the favorite to land the Atlanta Falcons‘ head coaching job. As it turns out, he wasn’t even close.

ESPN on Monday published an explosive report on Belichick’s failed job hunt this offseason and on what he plans to do over the next year. The piece includes a fascinating insight into why the Falcons ultimately spurned the New England Patriots legend in favor of Raheem Morris.

Bill Belichick Wasn’t Part of Falcons’ Top 3 Candidates

Belichick met twice with Falcons executives, including owner Arthur Blank. The sessions went well, according to ESPN, with Blank “impressed” by Belichick, who conveyed a desire to focus more on coaching and less on organizational power. Belichick felt he was the favorite for the job.

“On the morning of Jan. 25, a few hours before the Atlanta Falcons named Raheem Morris to be their next head coach, Bill Belichick believed the job was his,” ESPN wrote. ” … From Belichick’s perspective, according to sources close to him, he had done everything right.”

But the job went to Morris, a move that “blindsided” Belichick, according to ESPN. And the future Hall of Famer wasn’t even one of Atlanta’s top three candidates.

Check this excerpt from ESPN’s story:

“On the morning of Jan. 25, Blank and executives interviewed a final candidate, Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik. The meeting went 90 minutes longer than scheduled. They liked him but were worried about losing out on Morris, who was due to interview with the Seahawks.

“After Slowik left, Blank and the Falcons execs compared notes. Morris was the unanimous first choice. The team then discussed alternatives if it couldn’t hire Morris. In that straw poll, Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, eventually hired by the Seahawks, was the second choice. Slowik finished third.

“Blank offered Morris the job. Told that morning that the job was his to lose, Belichick was eliminated. This offseason’s lack of opportunities left Belichick ‘kind of shocked,’ a source close to him said.”

So, what happened? Why was arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history passed over by so many organizations, and in some cases not even considered?

Why Atlanta Rejected Belichick

Falcons executives reportedly didn’t buy Belichick’s claims about being willing to change his notoriously military-like style of running a franchise.

“A source familiar with the Falcons’ thinking said neither (CEO Rich) McKay nor (general manager Terry) Fontenot wanted to work with Belichick,” ESPN wrote. “Their concerns mirrored those of the Eagles: If you hire Belichick, he will inevitably run the team, even if he doesn’t demand total control.”

ESPN added: “They viewed Belichick as ‘an older, stoic coach who’d blow up the building’ and wouldn’t likely stay beyond two years after he sets the all-time wins record, a source said. Also, (Falcons owner Arthur Blank) hates coaching searches and he would have to do another.”

The Falcons reportedly also had concerns about Belichick wanting to hire long-time Patriots assistants, such as Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge. Belichick viewed the coaches as essential to his success in New England, and their departures crucial to the Patriots’ recent failures.

“The executives also were concerned about the staff Belichick would bring with him, including assistants who had worked with him in New England and who had struggled on their own,” ESPN wrote. ” … At one point, Blank asked Belichick why his charges had failed elsewhere. Belichick replied that he thought they were better soldiers than generals.”

The most explosive portion of ESPN’s report focuses on Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who might’ve played a role in Belichick going unhired this offseason.

After Blank and Belichick’s first meeting, the former spoke with Kraft, a close friend. Kraft, according to ESPN, called Blank to “warn” him about Belichick’s trustworthiness. His “stark assessment” of Belichick included claiming Blank never would have a “warm conversation” with the coaching legend.

“Multiple sources said that Kraft spoke with ‘some candor’ to Blank about Belichick, though the sources declined to elaborate,” ESPN wrote. “One source close to Belichick said Kraft ‘was a big part’ of why the Falcons passed on hiring him.”

Kraft reportedly expressed similar sentiments to confidants throughout the Patriots’ failed 2023 season. He also was notably critical of Belichick during his appearances on Apple TV’s “The Dynasty” docuseries, from which Kraft recently distanced himself.

MORE: NFL Insider Adam Caplan Has Patriots Going QB in Latest Mock Draft

ESPN spoke to Patriots vice president of media relations Stacey James, who strongly denied the report about Kraft speaking negatively about Belichick during his call with Blank. However, James acknowledged Kraft might’ve been critical of Belichick during conversations with Blank before January.

“It would not surprise me to learn that owners sometimes lament to those close to them when their teams are struggling,” James said. “But Robert Kraft never questioned Bill’s character or trust when talking with Arthur Blank. Trust is important to Robert. He wouldn’t have employed Coach Belichick for the past 24 years if he ever questioned his trust.”

A Falcons spokesperson declined to comment when reached by ESPN, instead pointing toward Blank’s public comments about Kraft endorsing Belichick.

What Are Belichick’s Plans for the Future?

ESPN reported that Belichick, with a desire to stay in the Northeast, is eyeing the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants for potential job openings in 2025. The Eagles briefly discussed Belichick this offseason, as did the Washington Commanders and Carolina Panthers.

Belichick reportedly hoped to join the Cowboys this offseason, as working for Jerry Jones would enable him to “stick it” to the Krafts.

As for this year, Belichick is expected to soon join Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions in an undisclosed TV role. Previous reports indicate Manning hopes to pair Belichick with Nick Saban for an alternate college football broadcast similar to ESPN’s “ManningCast.”

KEEP READING: Why NFL Teams Have Said No to Bill Belichick

Belichick is reportedly also working on a book that will focus on football leadership and business rather than serving as a tell-all memoir. The release date for the book is currently unknown.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s all-new Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls — lone wolf or with your friends!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles