Analysis: Building a Super Bowl champion starts with figuring how who gets all the power

By Rob Maaddi

There’s no shortage of accomplished head coaches available to NFL teams in this hiring cycle.

Bill Belichick won six Super Bowls in New England. Pete Carroll won one in Seattle. Jim Harbaugh just led Michigan to a national championship. Mike Vrabel was the AP Coach of the Year just two seasons ago.

But owners have more to consider than impressive resumes. Often, it comes down to power.

The amount of power owners are willing to give coaches can determine the direction a franchise takes in its search.

Belichick gained full control of personnel decisions with the Patriots after winning his third Super Bowl. After Tom Brady left New England, he couldn’t win games because fewer of his moves worked out.

Carroll was vice president of football operations in Seattle so he had final say on personnel decisions over general manager John Schneider. Now, it’s Schneider’s team after Carroll won only one playoff game over his last seven seasons.

Harbaugh ceded personnel control to GM Trent Baalke when they were in San Francisco. Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance in his first three seasons and was 44-19-1 in four years before he lost a power struggle to Baalke in 2014.

Former Seattle Seahawks HC Pete Carroll. AP Photo/Lindsey-Wasson

Harbaugh isn’t requiring control over personnel decisions despite a poor experience in San Francisco that he once labeled as being “micromanaged” by Baalke and CEO Jed York.

The 60-year-old Harbaugh seems to be headed to the Los Angeles Chargers, who also are looking for a new GM. They’ve interviewed candidates with connections to Harbaugh, who also has met with the Falcons.

Hiring a general manager positioned to have a strong working relationship with Harbaugh is imperative for the Chargers. They have a franchise QB in Justin Herbert and could become a championship contender quickly with Harbaugh.

Belichick talked about being willing to relinquish some of his personnel duties to stay in New England but owner Robert Kraft didn’t agree that would work.

“All of us need checks and balances in our life,” Kraft said last week. “We need what I say — I call it, we need doctor ‘no’s’ around us, people to protect us from ourselves. And, as things evolve and you get more power, sometimes people are afraid to speak up. I’m speaking about all companies. I think it’s good to have checks and balances, but once you have it, it’s kind of hard to pull it away and expect to have the accountability you want.”

Belichick has already interviewed with Atlanta and he’s getting a second meeting with owner Arthur Blank and team brass.

University of Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. AP Photo/Larry Lage.

The Falcons haven’t made the playoffs since 2017. They’ve had six straight losing seasons. General manager Terry Fontenot hasn’t added a franchise quarterback or bona fide edge rusher in three drafts but tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson are talented players who would benefit from playing with a legitimate No. 1 QB.

Giving the 71-year-old Belichick the keys to the organization makes sense for the 81-year-old Blank. The Falcons have the No. 8 pick in the draft, plenty of salary cap space and play in a weak division. That has to be attractive for Belichick, who is 15 wins away from passing Don Shula for No. 1 on the career list.

The Seahawks, Chargers, Commanders, Titans, Raiders and Panthers also have openings but Belichick doesn’t seem to be a fit for any of them either because of control or preference.

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