New England Patriots

Are the Panthers a realistic landing spot for Bill Belichick?

There are a few factors working in Carolina's favor.

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It's looking more likely by the day that Bill Belichick is coaching his final season with the New England Patriots. Which begs the obvious question: Where will he be coaching in 2024 if not Foxboro?

The Carolina Panthers became the second NFL team to fire its head coach this season, parting with Frank Reich after he went 1-10 in his first 11 games. It seems unlikely the Las Vegas Raiders would bring in Belichick after firing a pair of Patriots alumni in Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, so until another NFL coaching job opens up, it's worth at least discussing the merits of Belichick joining Carolina.

The Boston Globe's Ben Volin, for one, believes it's a discussion worth having.

"This isn’t just my opinion; this is based on conversations with league sources who know the coaching market and know Belichick," Volin wrote Tuesday. "Keep a close eye on Belichick and Carolina."

Why would Belichick appeal to the Panthers, and vice versa? From the perspective of team owner David Tepper, hiring one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history would give his franchise immediate credibility and a relevance boost. After cycling through three general managers and five head coaches in the last 10 years, Tepper might be willing to give both coaching and personnel control to Belichick -- unlike other organizations that may want to keep their current GM -- to thrust his team into the national spotlight.

Volin added that the deep-pocketed Tepper -- the NFL's third-richest owner -- would be willing to pay Belichick a hefty salary, and that Carolina is a relatively short flight to Belichick's homes in Nantucket and Florida.

Those are the cases for Belichick in Carolina, but there are plenty of cases against it, as well.

For starters, Tepper admitted Tuesday he'd ideally want his next coach to be in Carolina for the next "20 years, or 30 years." That doesn't lend itself to hiring a 72-year-old head coach coming off what's on track to be his worst season ever.

Tepper also is a very hands-on owner who has fired three head coaches in-season since purchasing the team in 2018 and played a role in the team's decision to select Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud in the 2023 NFL Draft. Belichick, meanwhile, is used to calling the shots in New England and likely would want the same reassurance in Carolina, so that could be a source of conflict.

Finally, if Belichick is serious about catching Don Shula on the NFL's all-time head coach wins list -- he's currently 17 behind Shula right now -- that might be very hard to do with Carolina, which hasn't had a winning season since 2017 and doesn't have a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft after dealing it to Chicago.

The Panthers are worth consideration simply based on the fact that they have an opening, but teams such as the Washington Commanders or Los Angeles Chargers seem like more realistic destinations at the moment.

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