Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Bill Belichick was always a difficult candidate to match for in this hiring cycle.

If there was one team that made sense, it was the Atlanta Falcons. They have cap space and talent. They seem to be just a quarterback away from a playoff-caliber roster, maybe even a Super Bowl-caliber roster. And the thought was that maybe Falcons owner Arthur Blank would grant Belichick enough power — or maybe the legendary coach would concede enough power — to make it work. The opportunity was enough for Belichick to interview.

But he didn’t get the job. On Thursday, the Falcons came to terms with Raheem Morris to be their next head coach. 

Not Belichick.

It’s surreal to say, but the greatest coach of all time might not be on an NFL sideline in 2024.

While Belichick was the first candidate to get a second interview for the Falcons’ vacancy — and appeared to have a 28-3 lead in the situation — it was Morris who took the gig.

It’s possible that Belichick’s candidacy didn’t work out, in part, because Atlanta anticipated friction between Belichick, Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and even CEO Rich McKay. After all, Belichick had long operated as the coach and GM for the New England Patriots. It’s possible — and maybe even likely — he expected to have the final say on personnel. And the power structure wasn’t flexible in Atlanta.

So now Belichick is left with two remaining openings: the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Commanders. 

It’s unlikely they’re legitimate options. 

He has not interviewed for either job and the teams have not shown interest in him. Seattle just moved on from Pete Caroll, who profiles similarly to Belichick, a successful coach but one at the end of his career. Seattle doesn’t match for Belichick. The Commanders make some sense, given their wealth of cap space and draft assets. If Belichick had an interest in a rebuild, the Commanders would work. It’s just that he’s 71 and chasing the record for all-time wins, so he might not be interested in a rebuild. That opportunity could have legs, but again, we’ve not seen any interest from either side.

So what’s left?

It’s likely we could see Belichick take a year-long break from coaching. And, maybe, in the meantime, he will work in television.

Belichick is actually quite good on TV. It sounds crazy given his bristly approach to press conferences. But the man genuinely loves football and enjoys teaching the sport. If he doesn’t see a chance to coach in 2024, then maybe he can teach on TV.

“I do think there’s a part of him that just likes to talk about football and share his knowledge,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told FOX Sports last month when asked about Belichick’s Friday press conferences, when the coach was often verbose. “For us NFL Network, he was on that ‘Top 100’ player panel. All he did was basically just share his knowledge of players, and I think he loved it. When he gets the opportunity to share his knowledge, I do think he really enjoys being like, ‘Here’s the part of football that I appreciate and I would like you to appreciate it as well. So here’s 1,000 words on that.'”

[READ MORE: Inside Bill Belichick’s Friday pressers: When monotone Bill becomes monologue Bill]

The question is whether Belichick’s résumé will look better to NFL teams in 2025, because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change. But this method can work. Just look at Sean Payton, who took a year off and returned, with the Broncos giving up draft assets to acquire him.

If Belichick decides to take a year off, then you also have to wonder if he’ll be interested in coming back to the grind of coaching. Given that he is 15 wins shy of Don Shula’s all-time wins record, Belichick probably will want another shot, no matter how much he enjoys a year of retirement in Nantucket — with a part-time TV gig. But who knows? Maybe he steps away and decides there’s no need to step back. It’s possible.

But the situation is trending toward Belichick taking at least a year off. It’s hard to believe, but the six-time Super Bowl champion doesn’t have a clear path back onto an NFL sideline. And we don’t know when — or if — he’ll lead another team.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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