(97.1 The Ticket) It was always assumed that Bill Belichick would end his coaching career with the Patriots and then stroll into the Hall of Fame.

And that’s probably still the case.

But an ESPN story published on Friday that describes a growing rift between Belichick, Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft suggests that Belichick could walk away from the organization at the end of the season.

“[New England’s Week 17 win over the Jets] didn’t look like Belichick’s last regular-season game as the Patriots’ head coach, but several coaches and staffers later remarked to one another that it felt as if it could be,” according to the story.

That hypothetical has given birth to another: Belichick could become the next head coach of the Lions, with whom he had one of his first jobs in the NFL.

Hey, Jalen Rose is on board.

Why the Lions?

Well, they have a head coaching vacancy and the obvious connection to Belichick through general manager Bob Quinn. They also have one of the most appealing openings on the market: The quarterback is already in place and ownership is hands-off and committed to winning.

“They’re not that far away,” longtime Texans beat writer John McClain of the Houston Chronicle told 97.1 The Ticket.

“If you look around the league at a lot of jobs, people have asked me what I think is the best, and I’ve told them, ‘The Lions are the best,'” McClain added.

Per the ESPN story, Belichick’s deepest frustration stems from Kraft meddling with the team’s roster and interfering with Belichick’s duty as general manager. Kraft reportedly forced Belichick to trade away backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo earlier this season, namely to secure Tom Brady’s future in New England. This left Belichick “furious and demoralized, according to friends.”

(He had drafted Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois in the second round of the 2014 draft and viewed him as Brady’s successor.)

Belichick has “always subscribed to the philosophy that it’s time to go once an owner gets involved in football decisions,” per the story. If the current dynamic in New England is “unsustainable,” as Belichick has apparently expressed to friends, Detroit would be a welcome change of pace.

Lions ownership has long stayed out of football decisions, and current owner Martha Ford is especially hands-off. She checks in with general manager Bob Quinn on a regular basis, but allows him full jurisdiction on matters of personnel.

(That much was clear in the team’s firing of Jim Caldwell.)

Belichick’s legacy is secured. Many consider him the greatest football coach of all time. But if he’s looking for a feather in his cap, it’d be bringing a championship — heck, even a division title — to the long-suffering Lions.

And if the rift between Kraft/Brady and Belichick is as deep as the ESPN story suggests, it’d also be a way for Belichick to prove neither of them are responsible for his success.

All that said, it’s highly unlikely Belichick leaves the Patriots after this season. Kraft is on record as saying he hopes the 65-year-old coaches into his 80s and the trio of Kraft, Belichick and Brady released a statement on Friday negating the story’s claim that their run is coming to a close:

“For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate.

“The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”

It bears mention that Belichick’s contract has never been made public. It could expire at the end of this season, it could extend through 2028. No one outside of the Patriots organization knows.

But if he’s signed beyond this season, he’ll likely only be eligible to leave via trade. And New England would want a king’s ransom in return.

The Lions may well hire a Patriots coach to fill their vacancy on the sideline — Matt Patricia is reportedly their leading candidate — but it almost certainly won’t be Belichick.

Comments (2)
  1. Chris Decker says:

    There are insinuations that Jim Caldwell was not a good head coach … he was average. It was Peyton Manning in Indianapolis who took the Colts to the Super Bowl not Caldwell. It was Caldwell who lost, not Manning. And in Detroit, it’s Stafford and not Caldwell who made all those comebacks in 2016 as if Caldwell’s unique two-minute drill during practice every day had nothing to do with their success.

    AND NOW, Bill Belichick has had enough of hearing the same insinuations in New England that the Patriots success could not be the same without Tom Brady. They are right, Brady is the key to New England’s success but they are wrong because both Brady and Belichick rely on each other to succeed.

    And that is where the rubber meets the road in this case. Bill Belichick seems to feel he needs to step out of his comfort zone and prove himself all over again. To do that he needs the perfect storm. He’ll abandon the Patriots leaving a vacuum for someone else to prove they can win without him. The eye of this hurricane lies in Detroit who has a franchise QB in Matthew Stafford and like the Patriots when Belichick arrived, the Lions are a fledgling franchise who are currently on the cusp of turning everything around. All they need is an elite head coach.

    If all the dominoes fall in order, Bill Belichick could become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. It would be a bit of an awkward reunion with the Lions GM Bob Quinn, who had worked for 16 years for Belichick before he came to Detroit. Could it be that Quinn was the one man inside Belichick’s front office he couldn’t win without? Not immediately, but Quinn has proven to be an excellent judge of talent and that is not something Belichick can survive for long without. Thus, if Quinn won’t come back to him, then Belichick needs to go to Quinn. It’s an intriguing scenario. The understudy now the boss. It’s a relationship that could work but most probably will have it’s speed bumps along the way. The one perk is Bill Belichick will have his workload reduced to just being a head coach again.

    If this plays out after the Patriots season ends, then Detroit will most certainly be a beneficiary and Tom Brady, well, at his age he could just walk away especially if he wins it all this year … back-to-back Super Bowls. Then there is Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, who would be left to fend for himself. The fallout in New England could be as impressive as Niagra Falls itself.

  2. I think Matt Patricia would be a really good choice for the Lions. To think the BB/TB12/Kraft are breaking up is a pipe dream for the rest of the NFL and confirmed by the Patriots official response to this “story”. Pray you tell me, why is it this type of noise always surfaces around the playoffs (?) quite silly really….

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