It’s interesting to imagine a great dynasty like the Patriots’ burning down spectacularly, but it won’t go down like that.
Bill Belichick is three playoffs wins away from a sixth Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots, something no coach has accomplished because — well — Belichick is the only one to ever get to five.
Now 18 years into his tenure with the team, Belichick has done it all and is trying to squeeze everything he can out of Tom Brady, who is still playing at an MVP level at age 40.
So now, of all times, seems like a weird moment for rumors that Belichick could be angling for an exit route. According to the New York Daily News, the three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year “sees an opening” to coach the Giants.
It would mark a return to New York for Belichick, who joined Bill Parcells’ staff in 1979 as a special teams coach and defensive assistant for the Giants. He spent 12 seasons with the team, spending his last six as the team’s defensive coordinator before leaving to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1991.
But the idea of Belichick leaving the Patriots is still a wild idea fueled by rumors that have been denied by the coach and everyone else of note in New England.
How did the departure rumors get started?
The talks of a shocking divorce in New England were sparked by a feature from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that showed there may be trouble in paradise. There were reportedly several issues that created disagreements between Belichick, Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Among them:
- The role of Brady’s personal trainer and business partner, Alex Guerrero.
- The succession plan at quarterback after Brady.
- Belichick’s coaching style.
- Irreconcilable differences over who’s responsible for the team’s unprecedented success over the years.
Brady was part of the first draft class when Belichick arrived in New England in 2000 and it feels weird to think about the two parting ways after 18 seasons together that has produced seven trips to the Super Bowl.
But the Brady-Belichick era is approaching its end, one way or the other. Brady hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, but Father Time claims every player eventually. The quarterback is already playing at an age that only a handful of other passers ever have before.
Whenever Brady’s done, the Patriots no longer have a quarterback currently ready to take over after Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. Among the nuggets in Wickersham’s report was the assertion that Kraft demanded Garoppolo be traded:
Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job.
Kraft denied the report in a conversation with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, so maybe Belichick isn’t frustrated with how things went down. But either way, finding a new Brady protégé isn’t going to be easy for the Patriots. New England also traded Jacoby Brissett in 2017 and the only other quarterback on the roster now is Brian Hoyer.
The team will be slated to pick somewhere between 27th and 32nd in the first round in this year’s draft. Brady was nabbed in the sixth round, but Belichick having to discover another star that other teams miss is a tall ask.
Why would the Giants be the team to pull Belichick away?
For Belichick to leave, he would presumably need to find another job as attractive or better than New England, where the team just finished a 13-3 regular season.
The Giants were awful during a 3-13 year in 2017, finishing with the No. 31 scoring offense and No. 27 scoring defense. But this team could be primed for a quick rebound.
Just one year ago, the Giants had one of the NFL’s best defenses during an 11-5 season that earned them a spot in the playoffs. This season, the offense was ravaged by injuries that sidelined almost all of the team’s wide receiving corps, including Odell Beckham Jr.
The biggest issue in New York for whoever takes over is finding the replacement for Eli Manning, who is now 37. Just like in New England, Belichick would be tasked with finding a quarterback of the future, but with the Giants he’d have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to get the job done.
This team would give Belichick a little more cap space to work with than in New England, some elite talent on both sides of the ball — Beckham, Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon, to name a few — and it’s in New York, a place that is evidently special to him.
Belichick was always going to go back to the Giants. Listen to him. pic.twitter.com/imSTK8yKku
— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) January 6, 2018
If ever there was a time to leave the Patriots, cutting bait before the wheels fall off Brady might be the one. But …
Nah, Belichick ain’t going anywhere
Five Super Bowls. FIVE.
Belichick has shaped the roster in New England all on his own to build the strongest dynasty in the history of the NFL. Now he’s 65 with every accomplishment possible. Why on Earth would he want to go to another organization and start over?
He’s already doused the flames, telling reporters he “absolutely” plans on being back in New England next season.
In New York, he’d be paired with Dave Gettleman, a newly hired general manager who recently spent more than three years in charge of the Carolina Panthers roster. Unless the Giants fired their brand new GM, Belichick would walk into a job where he’s splitting roster management duties with someone else.
There’s also the issue that he’s under contract with the Patriots. How long that deal is, what kind of stipulations it has, and even how much Belichick is getting paid are all secrets, but it’s a reasonable assumption that he isn’t a few weeks away from becoming a free agent coach.
So to coach the Giants, he’d likely need to be traded and that’s possibly the most unrealistic part of it all. No coaching trade has happened since Jon Gruden was traded from the Raiders to the Buccaneers in 2002 and it’d be a messy end to a tremendous era in New England.
It would also cost the Giants a ludicrous price tag to get Belichick. According to the New York Daily News, it’d take three first-round picks to pull the Patriots coach away, which presents a couple significant problems:
- It’s a ton to give up for a 65-year-old coach who almost definitely isn’t going to give the Giants two decades like he gave the Patriots.
- If the Giants’ No. 2 draft pick is part of what made the team a viable option, losing three first-round selections makes things tough.
But it’s not going to come to that. It’s interesting to imagine a dynasty as great as the Patriots’ burning down spectacularly, but it’ll probably end with Belichick retiring and there’s a good chance New England adds another trophy or two to the case before it’s all said and done.