Falcons owner Blank says Bill Belichick never asked for player personnel control in interviews


ATLANTA (AP) — Bill Belichick made no demands for additional authority during his two interviews with Atlanta in the coach search that led to the hiring of Raheem Morris, according to Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

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, who won a record six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, 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, a Hall of Fame-bound coach, was not just any candidate. He 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 said.

Belichick had player personnel control in New England. Such authority given to a coach presumably would have upset Atlanta’s front office structure.

Blank said Friday 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.

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 the MLS Atlanta United team also 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.”

Belichick is not known to have had an interview with any other team since leaving the Patriots.

Morris replaced Arthur Smith, who was fired hours after the completion of his third consecutive 7-10 season. He was subsequently hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

Morris held his first news conference as the Falcons coach on Monday, the seventh anniversary of the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead and losing the Super Bowl 34-28 to Belichick and the Patriots when Morris was an Atlanta assistant.

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 of Belichick. “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.


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