Falcons owner says Bill Belichick didn’t request player personnel control, was never offered job

AP file photo by Greg M. Cooper / Bill Belichick, who coached the New England Patriots for the past 24 seasons before stepping down in January, had two interviews with the Atlanta Falcons. On Friday, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Belichick was never offered the job.
AP file photo by Greg M. Cooper / Bill Belichick, who coached the New England Patriots for the past 24 seasons before stepping down in January, had two interviews with the Atlanta Falcons. On Friday, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Belichick was never offered the job.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Bill Belichick made no demands for additional authority during his two interviews with the Atlanta Falcons in the coaching search that led to the hiring of Raheem Morris.

Speaking for the first time on Friday about the search, Blank said Belichick did not request control of player personnel, as was widely speculated. Blank also said Belichick was not offered the job.

Belichick won a record six Super Bowl championships in 24 seasons with the New England Patriots before stepping down last month. He was considered the favorite among 14 candidates interviewed by Blank and his search team before Morris, the former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator, was hired on Jan. 25.

Belichick, 71, boasts a career record of 333-178, including the playoffs, and could close in on the late Don Shula's record of 347 victories if he takes another job.

Blank described Belichick's record as "incredible" and said "he's the greatest coach who ever coached the game" or "on a very short list." He said the interviews with Belichick were "excellent."

"One was very informative, as it might be, because you're talking to kind of a living legend, somebody who's got, you know, great historical knowledge, great knowledge of the game, a great perspective from all the years of success he had," Blank explained.

  photo  AP photo by Butch Dill / Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank greets long snapper Liam McCullough before a game against the host New Orleans Saints on Jan. 7.
 
 

Belichick is not known to have had an interview with any other team since leaving the Patriots. He had player personnel control in New England, and while such authority given to a coach presumably would have upset Atlanta's front office structure, Blank said that was never an option.

"I do want to make it 1,000% clear, I want to go to 2,000% or 100,000, whatever percent you want to use," Blank said. "Bill Belichick never asked in our discussions for control of personnel or the building or anything of that nature."

Blank said Belichick also "sent me a private text" in which he said "he's happy working with" general manager Terry Fontenot. Blank said he shared the message with Fontenot, who has been with the Falcons since 2021.

The Falcons made a front office change even without hiring Belichick. Rich McKay, the CEO of Blank's sports operations and a former general manager with both Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, no longer has a say in football-related matters. Morris and Fontenot now will report directly to Blank, instead of to McKay, who instead will have more authority of Atlanta United FC, the Major League Soccer team owned by Blank.

Blank said he was impressed by the experience Morris, a former Atlanta assistant coach, gained with the Rams. Blank said "for a variety of reasons" Morris was "the best choice for us."

He replaced Arthur Smith, who was fired hours after the completion of his third 7-10 season in as many years leading the Falcons. He was subsequently hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers as their offensive coordinator, the position he held with the Tennessee Titans before going to Atlanta.

Morris held his first news conference as Atlanta's coach on Monday. It was the seventh anniversary of the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead and losing Super Bowl LI 34-28 in overtime to Belichick's Patriots when Morris was on Atlanta's staff.

Morris was an assistant with the Falcons from 2015-20 and was 4-7 as Atlanta's interim head coach in 2020. He said Monday he understood why Belichick was regarded as the favorite in Atlanta's search.

"I've got so much respect for what he's done in his career," Morris said. "I would never, ever feel slighted ... for what people would feel about Coach Belichick, right?"

Blank was ill and did not attend Monday's news conference.