New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will face Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday Night Football, with Brady’s successor Mac Jones trying to pull off the upset. Based on ESPN Sick Wickersham’s latest book, this matchup could have played out a lot differently.
Wickersham’s book, It’s Better to Be Feared, details the relationship between Belichick and Brady during their incredible run with the Patriots. While the NFL’s greatest dynasty ended with the legendary quarterback leaving and Belichick staying, things could have played out differently.
According to Wickersham, Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft once talked in 2017 about who might succeed Belichick in New England. While offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has long been viewed as a candidate, former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s name came up.
At the time, O’Brien was head coach for the Houston Texans. In a power struggle with general manager Rick Smith, O’Brien reportedly heard about his name as a possibility to eventually succeed Belichick. According to the book, O’Brien told those close to him that he was trying to get fired by the Texans.
While the Patriots might have discussed the hypothetical scenario of Belichick retiring, there were never any signs it would happen. So, as Brady’s relationship with his head coach deteriorated, the decision to leave the franchise became obvious.
- Bill Belichick record: 281-138 in regular season, 31-12 in playoffs
Smith took a leave of absence to care for his wife, who was fighting breast cancer at the time. In his absence, the Texans gave O’Brien more roster control and he was eventually named general manager in January 2020. Months later, following an 0-4 start, O’Brien was fired.
- Bill O’Brien record: 52-48, 2-4 in playoffs
Now that the Patriots have their quarterback of the future, there are no signs of Belichick stepping away in the near future. As for his future successor, the buzz surrounding McDaniels has cooled in the last year. Meanwhile, O’Brien is rebuilding his image as offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide.