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Bill Belichick is out in New England, so what’s next for the 6-time Super Bowl champion?

By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer

Now that Bill Belichick is out as coach of the New England Patriots after 24 seasons, the question turns to where will the six-time Super Bowl champion go next.

The 71-year-old Belichick needs just 15 wins to surpass Don Shula’s all-time record of 347 in the regular season and playoffs and could have options about where to go if he wants to go after that record.

There are already seven other coaching openings outside of New England. The Raiders, Chargers and Panthers fired coaches during the season and the postseason changes have already begun. The Atlanta Falcons fired Arthur Smith on Sunday night, the Commanders fired Ron Rivera on Monday, the Titans let Mike Vrabel go on Tuesday, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll stepped down on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the current openings in the NFL and how Belichick might fit:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Three straight seven-win seasons led to Smith’s firing as he was unable to develop a quarterback or create a competent offense despite using top 10 picks on tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson.

That core provides the opportunity for a better offense if a legitimate quarterback can be found. The defense does have a few good pieces led by safety Jessie Bates and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett for someone like Belichick to build around.

With 81-year-old owner Arthur Blank seeming to run out of patience, making a run at a proven coach like Belichick to help the Falcons win the NFL’s weakest division could make sense.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Panthers have taken on the mantle of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchise under owner David Tepper, who has gone through six coaches — including interims — since taking over as owner in 2018. Belichick could bring immediate credibility to a team sorely in need of it.

Tepper fired Ron Rivera during the 2019 season, Matt Rhule early in the 2022 season and Frank Reich just 11 games into his tenure this past season. He even got into trouble with the league last week for throwing a drink at a fan in Jacksonville, leading to a $300,000 fine.

Making matters worse for the two-win Panthers is the fact that they traded away the pick that turned into the No. 1 overall selection in April to move up to draft Bryce Young last year. Young struggled as a rookie but still has potential that could be an attraction for Belichick.

Tepper has plenty of money if Belichick is looking for a big pay day but it might take a few years to break Shula’s record, considering the state of the roster.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Owner Mark Davis has liked to take big swings on his coaching hires in the past, most notably when he brought back Jon Gruden for a second stint. Belichick’s old quarterback, Tom Brady, already is a part owner of Davis’ WNBA team and has an agreement to acquire a piece of the Raiders as well, pending league approval.

But the Raiders tried the Patriot Way without success when they hired former New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as coach and executive Dave Ziegler as general manager, only to fire both after less than two years. That could make Davis hesitant to go that direction again.

Interim coach Antonio Pierce provided a spark after taking over for McDaniels and has a shot to keep the job after going 5-4.

The Raiders also don’t have many building blocks for a quick turnaround outside of star defensive end Maxx Crosby and 31-year-old receiver Davante Adams to make the job attractive to Belichick.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers are one of 12 franchises never to have won a Super Bowl, making a six-time champion an enticing candidate.

Despite that lack of success, a small local fan base and an ownership group that hasn’t typically paid big money to coaches, the Chargers do offer one major positive to try to lure Belichick if they are interested.

Quarterback Justin Herbert has established himself as one of the top passers in the game in his four seasons and might just need the proper coach to build up the rest of the team in order to be able to compete for a title.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Belichick replaced Pete Carroll in New England back in 2000 and went on to win six Super Bowls with the Patriots. It seems less likely that he would be the choice to do that in Seattle.

The Seahawks have some good young building blocks on both sides of the ball, led by receiver DK Metcalf and cornerback Devon Witherspoon, but could be looking for a longer-term answer instead of bringing in another coach in his 70s.

TENNESSEE TITANS

After back-to-back losing seasons in Tennessee, the Titans got rid of Belichick’s former player, Mike Vrabel, as coach. But this doesn’t seem to be the best spot for Belichick to go if he wants to chase Shula’s record.

The Titans have some good pieces on defense and plenty of salary cap room but the offense needs lots of work. The line likely needs a major overhaul, the team lacks receivers and star running back Derrick Henry is headed for free agency.

There are also big questions at quarterback, where second-round pick Will Levis showed some flashes as a rookie but is far from a proven answer.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

What once was one of the least desirable places under former owner Dan Snyder is a far more attractive spot under Josh Harris’ ownership group.

The roster needs plenty of work with no proven quarterback and two key defensive starters traded away for draft picks during the season. But the Commanders do have the No. 2 overall pick, six selections in the top 102 in April’s draft and what is projected to be the most salary cap room in the NFL.

Washington could offer some sentimental attraction to Belichick, who grew up in the area when his father coached at Navy and who spent more than a decade in the NFC East as an assistant on the New York Giants.

It also could appeal to the historian in Belichick, who could follow in Vince Lombardi’s path. After winning five NFL titles in Green Bay, Lombardi finished his coaching with one season in Washington before dying in 1970.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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