Bill Belichick as Falcons coach doesn’t give great vibes

Bill Belichick as Falcons coach – that certainly would be different.

Club owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay have been receptacles for criticism and doubt ever since they made clear Monday that, once again, they would be running the search process for the team’s new head coach, with Blank making the final call.

After five hires of coaches who previously never were an NFL head coach – four of whom went on to achieve some success, though none the ultimate prize of a Super Bowl title – swaths of the fan base fear/expect more of the same.

So, if this comes to pass – the only coach ever to win six Super Bowls as head coach setting up shop in Flowery Branch – Blank can be credited for at least going in a different direction with head coach No. 7. If the greatest coach in NFL history is available, why wouldn’t you hire him, right?

And, in fact, the Falcons are moving in that direction, according to the reporting of esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter.

However, this just feels like the wrong move.

Start with Belichick’s final four seasons with New England, all following the departure of Tom Brady. Yes, the brilliant tactician and the surpassing quarterback together dominated the NFL with 17 AFC East titles and six Super Bowl trophies. And with Brady leaving the Patriots after the 2019 season, Belichick had the stage to demonstrate his coaching genius, that the success of the Patriot Way was not solely the product of Brady’s incomparable play. In those four seasons, the Patriots were 29-38 with one playoff appearance, and that as a 10-7 wild-card team.

Over the same span, the Falcons were 25-42, substandard enough that they got two coaches fired. The Belichick-coached, Brady-less Patriots won one more game per season than that.

Trying to win with superior defense and special teams with Brady no longer at quarterback, Belichick’s defenses were better than average but not exceptional, as they had been previously, while his offenses fell off a cliff.

Undoubtedly, the Falcons would be getting the mind and leadership skill of a man who has orchestrated 302 NFL victories, third most all-time, but it’s not like the past four years can be dismissed from the record. They’re quite arguably a closer picture of who Belichick is when he doesn’t have arguably the best football player ever on his roster, and certainly a more recent one.

In the past four years, the quarterback play was ineffective. Cam Newton, whom Belichick signed as a free agent to succeed Brady, had the lowest QBR score of his career as a full-season starter. Mac Jones, Belichick’s first-round pick in 2021, made the Pro Bowl as an alternate as a rookie but regressed over the next two seasons. Belichick either whiffed on Jones or failed to develop him or both. Statistically, he was inferior to the Falcons’ Desmond Ridder this season.

Put another way, Arthur Smith arguably did a better job this season with the third-round pick Ridder than Belichick did with the 15th overall pick of the 2021 draft.

This is important because, were Belichick hired, he would have significant input, if not full authority, on whom the Falcons acquired at quarterback, and then oversee him as head coach. With a solid roster in place but a hole at quarterback, that decision – whether through a trade, a free-agent signing or a draft selection – could be as defining for the franchise’s future as Blank’s head-coach decision.

What confidence does Belichick inspire to make this work?

The Brady-Belichick partnership obviously is the most successful of any quarterback-coach duo in league history, and Belichick was the one who drafted Brady and teamed with him for a historically unparalleled 19 years.

But the Patriots’ post-Brady descent – and the quarterback play that accelerated it – leaves a lot of questions about how much credit Belichick should be accorded and how much trust he should be given in the future.

A comment made by Blank during his Monday news conference with McKay offered another reason to wonder if this would be a successful venture.

“I do think today, being a head coach in the NFL is more demanding and more complex,” Blank said. “Players, I think, are coming into the NFL with a different set of life experiences today, often expectations, and so, I think a head coach, part of his job is to sometimes be a psychologist along with everything else and putting a team together with the right kind of chemistry.”

Does this sound like the expertise of a coach whose slogan was “Do your job”? For all of his shortcomings, Smith excelled at relationship building with his players and developing a cohesive bond within his team. The affection that players held for him was obvious. For better or worse, this presumably was no small part of why Blank hired Smith.

Compare that with an assessment of Belichick in an in-depth report from The Athletic published Thursday that Belichick “struggled to relate to the young players joining the team.”

Here’s one more concern. How is Belichick going to fit into an organization that values consensus building and collegiality? Would Blank give Belichick free rein over personnel, an area where he has demonstrated deficiencies? And if Belichick agrees to work alongside general manager Terry Fontenot, how is that partnership going to work when Belichick has been accustomed to getting his way for more than two decades?

One more question – there never has been a coach who has won two Super Bowls with two different teams. Part of it is merely statistical – not many coaches win Super Bowls once. Several have made it to Super Bowls with two different teams, including Dan Reeves with the Broncos and Falcons. But whether it’s energy, circumstances, staff, roster, motivation or something else, it speaks to the idea that it’s difficult to replicate. It’s quite reasonable to believe that the Patriots wrung out the best of Belichick over 24 years and to wonder how much, at the age of 71, is left.

Here’s a caveat. It’s not like Blank is blinded by the Super Bowl rings and is unaware of all the red flags – the post-Brady failures, the inadequate quarterback play, the personnel shortcomings, the general grumpiness and probably more.

Blank, however, is a close friend of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has more insight than anyone into Belichick, what it’s like to work with him, what happened in the past four years and what he has left in the tank. Presumably, Blank wouldn’t pursue Belichick unless he had all of his questions suitably answered from someone who you’d think has his best interests at heart.

But this feels like a grasp of desperation, one with a chance to end in glory but with a likelihood of disappointment.

                        FILE — New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick looks on before the start of Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2019. For most of its existence, New England was a terrible team. But a two-decade run of success turned it into one of the most recognizable sports brands in the world. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

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Credit: NYT

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots disputes a call with head linesman Kent Payne #79 during the second quarter of Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick congratulates quarterback Tom Brady after the Patriots won their 19th game in a row, a 24-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)


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The Santa suit is a better look than Bill Belichick's normal attire. (Anyone else own a sleeveless sweatshirt?) Anyway ... which coach will be the first to throw the challenge flag?A: Bill BelichickB: Tom Coughlin

Credit: Photo: AP

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Credit: Photo: AP

March 16, 2106 Athens, GA: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, left chats with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during  Pro Day at the University of Georgia Wednesday March 16, 2016.  Players,  who have wrapped up their college careers,  participated in a set of predetermined skills designed to test their strength, speed and agility in hopes of impressing NFL scouts.     BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

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Bill Belichick By the Numbers

A look at some significant numbers from Bill Belichick’s coaching career:

1 – Belichick is the only head coach in NFL history with seven seasons of 13-plus wins. George Seifert is next with three.

8 – Super Bowl wins. It includes two as an assistant with the New York Giants (1986, 1990) and six with the New England Patriots (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2018). He is the only head coach in NFL history with six Super Bowl victories.

12 – Conference titles, including three as an assistant

13 – Seasons with 12 regular season wins, an NFL record.

17 – Division titles. It is the most by a head coach in NFL history. Belichick also owns the NFL record with 17 seasons of 11 wins in the regular season.

19 – Number of postseason berths as a head coach. It is tied with Hall of Famer Don Shula for the most all-time.

24 – Seasons as Patriots coach.

24 – Division titles as an assistant and head coach.

29 – Seasons as an NFL head coach.

31 – Playoff victories

Associated Press

49 – Number of consecutive years Belichick has been a coach in some capacity in the NFL, a record.

302 – Regular-season wins. He is the third NFL coach in NFL history with 300 victories, joining Hall of Famers Shula (328) and George Halas (318).

333 – Total victories (regular season and playoffs combined). It is second only to Shula (347). Belichick is second with 266 regular-season wins with one team, trailing only Halas (318).