Bill Belichick met face-to-face with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank for a second interview on Friday, but sources indicate that a potential deal with one of the greatest coaches of all time is not a done deal at this time.
According to a league source, Belichick first met with Blank on Jan. 15 on Blank's yacht near the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to multiple sources, former Patriots head coach Blank's second interview Friday included team CEO Rich McKay, team president Greg Beadles and general manager Terry Fontenot.
The Falcons have interviewed nine candidates for their vacant head coaching position, with more to come. According to sources, Atlanta has requested interviews with Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Bills interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady. And there could be further initial discussions beyond that.
But the Falcons are already on their second interview with Belichick, which has led many around the league to believe it's a fait accompli that he'll be crowned Atlanta's newest head coach — and perhaps shortly.
Sources tell CBS Sports that's not exactly the case. The Falcons plan to have several second interviews next week. Because of league rules, the Falcons couldn't sign Belichick immediately or this weekend even if they wanted to.
“This will be one of the most comprehensive head coaching searches anywhere.” [NFL] story,” a source said.
But a source familiar with Belichick told CBS Sports that Blank “desperately” wants Belichick and that ultimately it's Belichick's job if he wants it. This source said it's “50/50 right now as he takes the job.”
To proceed with the hiring of a head coach, a team with a vacancy must comply with the Rooney Rule and personally interview at least two external candidates with diverse backgrounds. So far, the Falcons have only personally interviewed Belichick and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, and no second interviews with minority coaches are currently scheduled.
Additionally, sources say Blank has no intention or desire to enforce compliance with Rooney rules to get a job quickly — even if he ends up becoming a six-time Super Bowl head coach.
Belichick meets with the Falcons in person because the rules allow it. Since he is no longer under contract with the Patriots, he is free to interview in person for any open head coaching position. Coaches who are under contract with another NFL team won't be able to talk in person until after this weekend's games, so coaches like Belichick, Harbaugh, Mike Vrabel and others have the advantage of meeting in person now.
There are also big questions about the direction of the franchise should Blank choose Belichick as his next head coach. The Patriot Way that has worked so well in New England for most of these 24 years will be a culture shock in Atlanta. Employees would be reassigned or laid off. Access to parts of the building or to meetings would be blocked.
A source at the Falcons told CBS Sports that if Belichick were hired, they would prefer to go elsewhere. And Belichick would of course involve his own people in terms of personnel and coaching, so the decision could still be made for that source.
Belichick's control of the franchise would need to be clarified before this potential partnership escalates. Sources have expressed doubt that Belichick would go to Atlanta wanting to maintain the same structure as it relates to McKay and Fontenot, and those decisions would have to be made with Blank's blessing.
“Arthur is not a shy violet,” a source who knows Blank said of anyone who dictates terms to him.
McKay is a football fan and has been part of the Falcons organization since 2003, shortly after Blank purchased the team. Fontenot just completed the third year of his six-year contract as GM.
What Belichick wants – and what Blank allows – would set the tone for the future for both sides.