End of the Line for Belichick? Teams’ Rejection of Bill Shocks NFL World as All 32 HC Spots Are Filled

End of the Line for Belichick? Teams’ Rejection of Bill Shocks NFL World as All 32 HC Spots Are Filled

Let me give it to Bill Belichick: He’s responsible for three of the greatest moments of my life as a sports fan.

I was too young to remember Super Bowl XXI, where the New York Giants won with him as their defensive coordinator back in 1987.

Four years later, however, he crafted the game plan that held the Buffalo Bills’ explosive offense to under 20 points and a last-second field-goal miss in a 20-19 Giants win in Super Bowl XXV. (The words that came to symbolize that miss, “Wide Right,” also came back to haunt the Bills this year. This time it helped the Kansas City Chiefs, though, so it left a bit more of a sour taste in my mouth.)

Then, Belichick went on to the head coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns in 1991; he was somewhat less successful there, leading the team to one playoff appearance and one playoff win.

He got another head coaching gig with the New England Patriots, where he was somewhat more successful, going to nine Super Bowls and winning six of them.

Two of the three losses? Against underdog Giants teams.

Again: Thanks for the memories, Bill.

Alas, all things must change. Quarterback Tom Brady left New England after the 2019 season. Success pretty much went with him; Belichick’s Patriots made only one playoff appearance in four years without Brady, and the team went 29-38 in the regular season.

After a pitiful 4-13 record this season, the 71-year-old Belichick and the Patriots announced they were parting ways, and the one question on everyone’s mind seemed to be: Where was Bill going next?

Because he definitely was going somewhere next, we all thought. After all, Belichick is reportedly obsessed with setting the NFL’s all-time wins record, and he’s only 14 behind former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, who holds the record with 347 victories. There are 32 teams in the NFL — and surely one of them would want to bring in a living legend to turn around their fortunes, no?

Well, no — at least not in 2024.

This week, the last two NFL head coaching vacancies were filled, and neither went to Belichick.

The Seattle Seahawks’ decision to not go after Belichick, and instead hire Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald on Wednesday, was unsurprising. The Seahawks had parted ways with another aging but legendary coach, Pete Carroll, who led the team to three Super Bowls and one title. (He was also behind the infamous call for a needlessly risky pass in Super Bowl XLIX that led to a last-second goal-line interception to seal one of Belichick’s more improbable Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, it’s worth noting.)

Macdonald is only 36 and behind one of the NFL’s top defenses of all time, statistically speaking. He managed that in only his second year as defensive coordinator with the Ravens — and, despite the 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game, he was bound to be a head coach sooner rather than later.

The other team with a remaining vacancy, the Washington Commanders (née Washington Football Team, née Washington Redskins), filled it a day later — and their decision was both 1) head-scratching and 2) totally on-brand for a team that, even without now ex-owner Dan Snyder, still appears to be a rudderless mess.

According to NFL.com, Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, will take the helm of the Commanders, or whatever they get rebranded to next season. (My vote: the Washington Perpetual Top-10 Draft Pickers.)

Quinn’s defenses with the Cowboys were only OK-to-good at best; according to Pro Football Reference, the only year in which they finished in the top 10 in the league in yards allowed was this season, when they were fifth. His defenses were a bit better in terms of points allowed, finishing seventh, fifth and fifth during his three years there, respectively.

However, this is somewhat mitigated by several facts.

First, Dallas’ teams never performed up to their potential in the playoffs with Quinn at the helm of the defense; while head coach Mike McCarthy no doubt bears some of the blame for the team’s consistent failure to advance beyond the divisional round, keep in mind that it was the defense that was primarily responsible for the No. 2-seeded Cowboys exit to the No. 7 Green Bay Packers in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

The team spotted the Packers — who were quarterbacked by first-year starter Jordan Love — a 27-0 lead and ended up losing 48-36 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as that final score indicated.

Furthermore, Quinn was decidedly average during his one NFL head coaching gig, going 43-42 with the Atlanta Falcons between 2015 and 2020, when he was fired after the team got off to an 0-5 start.

He also lost to Belichick twice in the Super Bowl — once as Falcons head coach, once as Seahawks defensive coordinator.

But there you have it: Thirty-two NFL teams, 32 head coaches, none of them named Belichick for the first time since 1999.

Now, to be fair, there was speculation before the season ended that there would likely be more vacancies than initially thought.

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was thought to be a sure-fire firing after a 1-5 start, but a promising-ish 6-5 finish was enough to save his hide.

Antonio Pierce was also supposed to be merely an interim head coach with the Las Vegas Raiders after he took over for the fired Josh McDaniels midseason — particularly after he led the team to a dreadful 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in what may be the single worst NFL game I’ve ever watched — but he’ll remain at the helm in 2024 after being retained as the permanent coach due to his team finishing 5-4 and notching a few promising wins, including a 63–21 dismantling of the Los Angeles Chargers and a 20-14 victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Despite the aforementioned ugly playoff loss, McCarthy wasn’t fired by the Cowboys.

Jim Harbaugh, both younger and more sought-after than Belichick after leading the University of Michigan to an NCAA championship, got the Los Angeles Chargers job, hardly a surprise.

Somewhat more surprising: Raheem Morris, after a stint as the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator, got the gig with the Atlanta Falcons over Belichick, who had two interviews with the team. (Ironically, Morris was also the Falcons interim head coach after the team fired Dan Quinn following that 0-5 start in 2020 — although he didn’t have much better success than Quinn, going only 4-7 for the rest of the year.)

So, is this the end of the line for Belichick?

Well, at least the Commanders considered Belichick for the job, according to NBC Sports, although losing out to Quinn isn’t a great augury for the man’s future — even if Washington’s front office isn’t known as a keen arbiter of football acumen (or anything, really).

Keep in mind, too, that another newly out-of-work head coach, Mike Vrabel — who did an admirable job with questionable talent during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans — also lost out on the 2024 coaching carousel and is thus available. He’s both younger and has a more recent history of success than Belichick does, even if he doesn’t have anywhere near the level of accomplishment that the former Patriots coach does.

Furthermore, after interviewing Belichick, the Falcons chose Morris — a man they’d passed over a few years back and whose defenses in Los Angeles were good but not great, at least statistically. (He did have a Super Bowl championship as defensive coordinator there, however.)

The Commanders spoke with Belichick, per NBC Sports, but there was no official sit-down.

So, here’s to you, Bill. You gave me one great win as a Giants defensive coordinator and handed me two great wins as an opposing head coach with the Patriots. And now you’ll give me the great pleasure of watching the Washington Commanders — also in the Giants’ division — regret yet another foolhardy decision.

As for whether you’ll get another shot at passing Don Shula, though, that’s anyone’s guess now.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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