TAMPA — Nobody really knows what’s going on under the Hoodie. But this much is true: The Bucs have made a blockbuster trade for an AFC head coach before.
They also have brought a six-time Super Bowl winner from New England at an age when people said he was past his prime and won a Super Bowl.
Could they do it again and make a deal for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick?
It sounds preposterous. Also, slightly plausible.
Let’s be clear: Todd Bowles’ coaching seat may be smoldering. But given the fact the Glazer family doesn’t fire coaches during the season, he likely will get every opportunity to salvage his team’s 4-7 start.
Lose Sunday to the 1-10 Carolina Panthers, who just relieved head coach Frank Reich of his duties, though, and it may be a different conversation.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes the “most fascinating” team to watch in a possible Belichick sweepstakes is the Bucs.
Since Tom Brady left the Patriots to sign with the Bucs in 2020 and led them to a Super Bowl championship and three straight playoff appearances, the winningest NFL coach not named Don Shula has struggled through three losing seasons in the past four.
Speculation from Bridgeport to Bangor is that Belichick is done after this season in New England.
He turns 72 in April. With Brady under center, Belichick enjoyed 18 of his 19 double-digit winning seasons with the Patriots. Without Brady, he is 27-34 over the past 3½ seasons.
Belichick controls all of the Patriots’ personnel decisions, yet has been unable to find a suitable substitute for Brady. The list includes Cam Newton, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. Steve Grogan apparently was unavailable.
But Florio speculates that New England will quietly broker a trade and make a mutual parting at the end of the 2023 season.
“I think what will happen behind the scenes over the course of the next six to seven weeks, they’ll work out a deal,” Florio said. “If there is a deal to be made, it’s going to be worked out quietly between the Patriots, wherever he’s going to end up and Belichick, and then after the season the dominoes will all be lined up and it’s just a matter of flicking the first domino at the right time and it will all fall together the way that we won’t know until it happens.
“So the teams to watch ... the Buccaneers, Panthers, Commanders, Chargers, those are the four I’d watch most closely. And of those, the one that I think is the most fascinating is the Buccaneers.”
Before you dismiss the notion of a trade for Belichick, remember the Bucs dealt two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million to the Raiders for Jon Gruden in 2002.
That worked out well.
The Glazers also have a history of working behind the scenes to get what they want. They are big game hunters
They had a secret deal with Bill Parcells to coach the Bucs before Tony Dungy coached his final game in Tampa. Parcells got cold feet and was a runaway bride for the second time. Former owner Hugh Culverhouse thought he had a deal with Parcells after the 1991 season.
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But the Glazers have often swung for the fences. They tried to hire Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson after they bought the team in 1995 before giving the job to Dungy.
They believed they had an agreement with Chip Kelly to leave Oregon after firing Raheem Morris following the 2011 season. He backed out at the last minute,and they wound up with Greg Schiano. Gruden arrived after the Bucs failed to land the 49ers Steve Mariucci.
The Glazers talked Bruce Arians out of retirement before the 2019 season and won Super Bowl 55 in his second season.
Belichick’s brand may be slightly damaged, but the man has 300 victories, only 47 wins shy of tying Shula for the most in NFL history.
The Glazers know they could become instantly relevant again in the national media by bringing Belichick to Tampa Bay.
There are obvious ties with Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who worked for Belichick from 2009-11 as the Patriots’ personnel director.
Licht likely would have to cede some of his personnel authority to Belichick, but everything is negotiable. But this sounds a little far-fetched for a bunch of reasons.
Start with the fact that Brady left New England and Belichick, and won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. Would Belichick risk further tarnishing of his brand if he wasn’t able to do the same?
Unlike when Gruden was traded from the Raiders and Brady left the Patriots as a free agent, the Bucs aren’t a Super Bowl-ready team. Now more than ever, they need to hold onto to their draft picks in hopes of replenishing an eroding roster.
Also, while Baker Mayfield has played well for the most part, he’s on his fourth team and playing on a 1-year deal worth $4.5 million. Who is quarterbacking the Bucs in 2024 if they give up draft picks to the Patriots for Belichick?
Unfortunately, it’s the time of year when there’s speculation about underperforming head coaches. Florio is right about one thing. It’s fascinating.
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