NFL Props: Is Bill Belichick Really Done in New England?
Published on January 12, 2018
Bill Belichick enjoys drama about as much as my wife enjoys watching the NFL combine.
But as they prepare to host the Tennessee Titans as 13-point favorites in this weekend’s AFC divisional round, Hoodie and the Patriots have plenty of drama on their hands following an ESPN report last week about an apparent power struggle in Foxborough.
In case you haven’t read the story or paid attention to any of the coverage, here are the Coles Notes: New England owner Robert Kraft reportedly forced Belichick to trade promising young backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers earlier this season because Tom Brady felt threatened by Garoppolo’s presence (a claim Brady denies.) And in what was seen by some as retaliation, Belichick last month banned Brady’s personal health guru, Alex Guerrero, from being on the sidelines, boarding the Patriots plane or working with anyone else than Brady in his team office.
The breadcrumbs of a potential Belichick exodus from New England after the season is undeniable and speculation is rampant that this could, in fact, be Belichick’s swansong postseason with the Patriots.
However, both Belichick and Kraft have shot down those rumors by saying “absolutely” when asked if the legendary coach would be back on the Patriots sidelines next fall. Belichick, Kraft and Brady then issued a joint statement saying, “For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship…We stand united.”
Bettors have also indicated their strong belief that Belichick will return to New England next season. When BetOnline posted odds on Belichick coaching the Pats in Week 1 of the 2018 campaign, money on the ‘Yes’ quickly drove it from an opener of -280 to as high as -2000. (That prop was not available as of Wednesday, January 10, 2018.)
However, some NFL insiders strongly believe that Belichick has indeed had enough of Kraft and Brady. Rex Ryan, who always loved to poke the Patriots bear when he coached the AFC East rival Jets and Bills, said he believes Belichick will say ‘the hell with it’, adding that Hoodie “has nothing to prove.”
Considering that Belichick has won 5 Super Bowl championships and 2 finalists appearances in his first 17 years in New England, along with the strong potential for more hardware this winter (the Patriots are +178 favorites to win Super Bowl LII, according to 5Dimes), there’s no debating that.
If Belichick wants to coach elsewhere next year, there is no shortage of opportunities.
Though the Raiders moved quickly to replace the fired Jack Del Rio by paying Jon Gruden a king’s ransom to leave the Monday Night Football booth (in reality, it was likely the other way around, with Oakland choosing to can Del Rio after coming to an agreement with Gruden) and the Bears announced the hiring of Matt Nagy on Tuesday, 4 other teams currently have openings at the head coach position.
Although Belichick isn’t currently considered the favorite to land the job with most of these clubs, that would obviously change if he becomes available after the playoffs.
Here’s a quick look at the current head coaching openings in the NFL:
Detroit has to contend with Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North, but the Lions could still be an attractive job. They’ve gone 8 games over .500 over the past 4 years under Jim Caldwell, including a pair of postseason appearances, and have a franchise quarterback in Matt Stafford.
Ironically, Pats defensive coordinator and Belichick disciple Matt Patricia is believed to be the front-runner for the Lions position. However, I’ll bet that Belichick would relish the opportunity to try to shut down Aaron Rodgers twice a year.
Can you seriously envision Belichick joining the organization that gave him and the Patriots such a headache with the Deflategate scandal? The Colts’ accusations about Brady using deflated footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game 3 years ago led to TB12 being suspended for the first 4 games of the 2016 regular season.
That suspension also just happened to open the door for Garoppolo to make his first career NFL start, leading New England to a 23-21 win in Arizona.
Beyond that, the Colts are a mess. They haven’t had an offensive line in ages, their defense was 30th in the NFL this year in yards allowed, and they are in quarterback purgatory until they know for sure whether Andrew Luck can ever return to his former self.
Next to Indianapolis, I believe the Cardinals would appeal to Belichick the least. The reason I say that is because Belichick would then have to compete in the NFC West with the Seahawks, Rams and up-and-coming 49ers. And San Francisco is now led by Garoppolo, the very quarterback that Belichick drafted and reportedly didn’t want to trade.
Arizona’s also already got a strong defense in place and is believed to be looking for an offensive-minded head coach. New England’s had some tremendous offenses in the Belichick era, but there’s no question that Belichick hangs his hat on the other side of the ball.
Here’s where things get really interesting. Belichick and the Giants have a long history, and I’m not just talking about New York beating Belichick and the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl.
Belichick’s NFL coaching career was essentially born in The Meadowlands. He spent his first 12 years with the G-Men, starting as a defensive assistant and special teams coach before eventually graduating to defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells. From there, Belichick was able to land his first head coaching gig, joining the Browns in 1991.
New York is coming off a horrific campaign, but the silver lining is that the Giants get the #2 pick in the draft. Eli Manning is also still there, and New York was a playoff team just a year ago.
It doesn’t seem like there’s any question about that. Belichick has a soft spot for the Giants organization, due to the history that I just referenced.
Just check out this footage from a 2009 NFL Films video in which Belichick walked through the bowels of Giants Stadium in the final year of the facility.
Belichick was always going to go back to the Giants. Listen to him. pic.twitter.com/imSTK8yKku
— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) January 6, 2018
A New York Daily News report by Gary Myers quoted a source that said “Bill knows this is his last chance to be the Giants coach. Bill sees an opening – an opening to get to the Giants.”
Both of Belichick’s coordinators in New England (Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels) could be gone next year. McDaniels is actually believed to be the favorite to get the Giants gig, so Belichick could simply beat him to the punch. That might be preferable for Belichick than returning to New England next year and having to work with 2 brand new coordinators, not to mention an aging quarterback (even if Brady does believe he has plenty of years left, the end comes for all of us at some point) whom he may have a crumbling relationship with.
Belichick has always known when to cut bait on an expiring asset and reload with a new one. It’s one of his greatest traits as a coach. He isn’t sentimental and loyal. He’s cold and calculating.
I’m not saying that to be critical. The ability to set emotions aside and make the best decision for the future is what makes businessmen successful. It’s why he has let go fan favorites such as Lawyer Milloy, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Wes Welker, Willie McGinest and Adam Vinatieri. And it’s also why he might have one foot out the door himself.
If the friction between Belichick, Kraft and Brady is as extreme as the ESPN report implies, I can absolutely see Belichick getting out of there before the building burns to the ground. And even if the rift isn’t that significant, the rumors and speculation about it are, and that’s something Belichick won’t want to be around, either.
Yes, odds are that Belichick returns, as that BetOnline prop indicated. But I think the bookmakers were actually pretty realistic with their opening line, and I’m shocked that the odds on that prop were steamed up as quickly as they were.