Bill Belichick has now won six Super Bowls as the Patriots’ head coach. But 23 years ago today, he was in a very different place.
It was on February 15, 1996, that Belichick was fired by Art Modell, the owner of the franchise that Belichick had coached as the Cleveland Browns but was about to become the Baltimore Ravens. Belichick had just gone 5-11 in 1995, his final year in Cleveland, but Modell had initially indicated that he was going to bring Belichick with him to Baltimore. However, in a surprise announcement 23 years ago today, Modell announced that he was firing Belichick and hiring Ted Marchibroda, the former head coach of the Baltimore Colts, to become the head coach of the Baltimore franchise that hadn’t yet chosen “Ravens” as a team name.
As noted by SI.com, when he was coach of the Browns, Belichick was treated as a punching bag, often portrayed as a grumpy jerk who didn’t have a clue what he was doing — a far cry from the way he’s now portrayed, as a grumpy jerk who is the greatest coach of all-time.
That Belichick, now recognized by many as the best coach in the history of football, was ever fired shows just how fickle football coaching can be. Belichick also started 5-13 with the Patriots before Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Tom Brady replaced him, which means the Greatest Coach Ever was pretty close to being remembered as, “That Bill Parcells assistant who could never cut it as a head coach.”
And there are probably plenty of other coaches who got fired from their first jobs, but would have done well if they had found themselves in the right opportunity. They wouldn’t have done as well as Belichick has done in New England, but they would have done a lot better than Ted Marchibroda did in Baltimore. Firing the coach is always the easy solution for a bad team, but sometimes you’re firing Bill Belichick to replace him with Ted Marchibroda.