Would Belichick be allowed to do his job?
Bill Belichick is no stranger to Detroit. His first opportunity in the NFL came in 1975 with Baltimore as a special assistant. After one season with the Colts he came to Motown where he was the assistant special teams coach in 1976, then the receivers coach in 1977.
Belichick then spent the 1978 season with the Denver Broncos as the assistant special teams coach and assistant defensive coordinator before joining the New York Giants in 1979. It was his 12-year stint in the Big Apple under Bill Parcells that would truly prepare him for an opportunity to become a head coach in the NFL.
Yet if you talk to him today he mentions how he still gets Christmas cards from the Ford Family and how much he enjoyed working for them.
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That all sounds like a good match, but would Belichick have been allowed to do what he felt needed to be done here in Detroit? Would he have truly been given the chance to build a winner, much less a dynasty?
There were definitely things that Mr. Ford wanted and while there is little documentation of how much he influenced team decisions, consider this; even though we all blame Matt Millen for destroying the Detroit Lions, what former defensive standout like Millen would have concentrated so much on offense in the draft unless he already had a lights out defense?
We call Millen inept for selecting a receiver in the first round of the NFL draft for three straight years but does anyone think about how much Mr. Ford wanted a high flying offense that would be exciting and sell tickets?
Once again it all comes back to ownership. This isn’t to say that Matt Millen isn’t to blame for the disaster that was his era, but I believe his hands were tied on enough decisions that it didn’t help matters either.
As recently as 2016 when Bob Quinn was hired as the Lions general manager it seemed like he was saddled with a coach he didn’t want in Jim Caldwell and it took him two years before he was able to bring in his own choice of Matt Patricia.
I suppose we’ll never know for sure, but it certainly seems like there is plenty of evidence that the Ford family has been actively ‘involved’ with team decisions for as long as they’ve been in charge.
So the question of whether Bill Belichick would have been allowed to do things his way to build a championship-caliber team is valid.
As I have said before, revisionist history is nothing more than a guessing game, so we can never really say for sure how things would have turned out, but I think the answer comes down to Belichick being given the opportunity to do things his way.
If the Ford family decided to allow Belichick to do things as he saw fit, it seems reasonable to believe he would have been successful here in Detroit. If he hadn’t of drafted Brady, he most likely would have found another quarterback that he could win with.
Maybe not to the extent of creating a dynasty like the Patriots have had, but probably a title contender who would have at least flirted with championship opportunities, if not actually capturing one or two.
But it seems fitting to say that the most probable answer is that his tenure would have been relatively short because of being hamstrung by the mandates of the Ford family. No general manager or coach has a chance to succeed unless they are allowed to do the job they were hired to do.
So the long and short of it is simple; the Ford family would have had the power to keep even Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches and talent evaluators for his system the NFL has ever known from meeting his destiny in Detroit.
This is what Lions fans are up against whenever they have hope and why even a winning machine like Belichick may have been powerless to change things.