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Analysis: Bill Belichick was passed over this coaching cycle but don’t count his career over yet

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Bill Belichick has won more Super Bowls than any coach and more games than everyone except Don Shula.

Still, he didn’t land a new job.

An iconic coach who built a two-decade dynasty in New England and teamed with Tom Brady to lead the Patriots to six championships somehow got shut out in a hiring cycle that started with eight openings.

“I was surprised. I thought there would be quite a bit of interest in someone who has won that much and is available,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy told the AP. “Coach Belichick is obviously a legend and a winner.”

The last opening was filled Thursday when Washington turned to Dan Quinn, whose team blew a 28-3 lead against Belichick seven years ago as Brady led the Patriots to a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the greatest Super Bowl comeback in league history.

Belichick interviewed twice with Atlanta after parting from the Patriots but the Falcons hired Raheem Morris, who is 21-38 as a head coach.

One theory why Belichick didn’t get hired is that he still wants full control over personnel decisions like Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave him in New England after he won his third Super Bowl.

Belichick said in his departure from the Patriots that he was open to a more traditional front-office structure in which a general manager had final say. But a person informed of Belichick’s discussions with the Falcons told the AP he still wanted full control. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were private.

“Things are changing in the NFL,” said ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, who was a Pro Bowl linebacker in New England under Belichick. “There’s more talk about ownership and collaboration. It’s becoming more organic where everybody is involved and everyone’s voice is heard. I don’t know if you can win football games that way, honestly. Eventually, the head coach has to be able to say: ‘I hear ya but this is the way we’re gonna go.’ I haven’t talked to Bill recently but Bill’s track record is great enough of not only picking players and winning games and winning championships.”

Bruschi pointed out that criticism of Belichick as a GM focuses on recent draft failures while ignoring the fact he picked and developed many star players who were integral to New England’s unprecedented run of success.

Belichick drafted guys like Hall of Famer Richard Seymour, future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Vince Wilfork, Julian Edelman, Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins, Stephen Gostkowski, new Patriots coach Jerod Mayo and others. Of course, there was Brady, picked in the sixth round in 2000.

“This man still knows how to win, how to win a lot and how to win for a long time so I don’t know how he doesn’t have a job,” Bruschi said.

Another knock against Belichick is his losing record without Brady.

The Patriots were 28-39 over the past four seasons after Brady went to Tampa Bay, won a Super Bowl and eventually retired. Overall, Belichick is 84-103 with only one playoff win without Brady over 29 seasons, including five in Cleveland.

“I don’t think there’s any question about what he would bring to the table and the benefit you would get from that kind of spark. He’s going to win,” Dungy said.

Belichick will turn 72 in April so his age coupled with the notion that he could retire after getting 15 more wins to break Shula’s career record may have contributed to the lack of interest from teams.

Sixty-year-old Jim Harbaugh was the oldest of the new head coaches hired. Quinn is 53. The other new coaches are between 36 and 45. Other high-profile coaches who were passed over include 72-year-old Pete Carroll, a Super Bowl winner, and Mike Vrabel, the 2021 NFL Coach of the Year.

“For all the young players coming into the league, if there’s any doubt how a 70-year-old man can coach football, those questions will be answered the very first week when Bill walks in there and talks to the team and tells them what he wants from them and shows them how to do it,” Bruschi said. “I’ve been in those meetings. It’s brilliance but it’s simplicity. You leave the meeting room thinking I know exactly what I have to do and how to get it done. That’s the way he coaches and that’s why he’s so good.”

Not good enough to get another job this season but don’t count Belichick out. When a team with a talented roster falls short next season — perhaps the Dallas Cowboys again — Belichick could come to the rescue.

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