ATLANTA (AP) — Bill Belichick signaled he’s ready to get back to coaching less than a week after parting with the New England Patriots, speaking with the Atlanta Falcons about their vacant position.
The Falcons announced Monday night they have interviewed the 71-year-old Belichick, who left the Patriots on Thursday after 24 seasons and a record six Super Bowl championships.
The fifth of those Super Bowls came nearly seven years ago against the Falcons in a game Atlanta led 28-3 in the third quarter before Tom Brady rallied the Patriots to a 34-28 overtime victory.
The Falcons are seeking a successor to Arthur Smith, who was fired shortly after the conclusion of his third straight 7-10 season. Atlanta released no details on the interview with Belichick, which was believed to have been conducted in person.
The Falcons had previously conducted virtual interviews with five candidates, only one of whom has head coaching experience. Including the playoffs, Belichick has 333 victories, second all-time to Hall of Famer Don Shula’s 347. He led the Patriots to 17 division titles.
Belichick had control of player personnel decisions with New England. If he joins the Falcons, Belichick would either have to agree to coach without that control or the Falcons would have to change their management structure.
At the new conference on Jan. 8 to discuss the firing of Smith, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay represented the team. General manager Terry Fontenot was not present. Blank said he and McKay would lead the search for a coach, with input from Fontenot, and Blank was clear that he expects the new coach and Fontenot to each report to McKay, as was the case with Smith and Fontenot. Blank said Fontenot would continue to be in charge of personnel.
“If you look at a traditional table of organization, they both report to Rich McKay, and we’ve been clear about that,” Blank said.
Belichick’s difficulty replacing Brady at quarterback in New England was similar to Atlanta’s struggles after Matt Ryan. The Falcons went back and forth between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke this season, while the Patriots had little success with either Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe.
The Patriots are 29-39 since Brady departed following the 2019 season, including 4-13 this season. The Falcons haven’t had a winning season since 2017.
The candidates to interview virtually with the Falcons are Baltimore Ravens assistant head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, Carolina defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, San Francisco defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
Interviews with employees of other clubs must be conducted virtually before the end of the divisional playoff games on Sunday. There are no such limitations on teams conducting interviews with candidates like Belichick who are no longer employed by other teams.
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