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Jimmy Johnson drops a Bill Belichick nugget that could have changed NFL history

Belichick after 10-3 victory over Jets: "A great team win"
Belichick after 10-3 victory over Jets: "A great team win" 01:25

BOSTON -- The history of Bill Belichick landing as the head coach of the Patriots is well told. But that dramatic departure from the New York Jets almost happened two years earlier.

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson revealed what would have been a history-altering scenario that almost played out way back in 1998.

While discussing the Dolphins' consideration of trading up to draft Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft, Johnson said in his new book -- as retold by Peter King -- that the Dolphins almost landed Belichick to be their defensive coordinator.

"On top of that, Bill Belichick came that close to coming down and being my defensive coordinator," Johnson said. "We could've had Peyton Manning as our quarterback and Bill Belichick as my defensive coordinator. But he had too much loyalty to Bill Parcells [on the Jets' staff]."

Belichick had just finished his first season working with Parcells on the Jets' staff, where Belichick was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator in 1997. Belichick was also on Parcells' staff in New England as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 1996, a job that Parcells gave to Belichick after he had been fired as the head coach of the Browns.

It was likely that aspect of Parcells hiring Belichick after the Cleveland firing that led to that level of loyalty from Belichick. 

So, instead of going to Miami in '98, Belichick stayed with Parcells, then abruptly resigned as HC of the NYJ in order to go to New England in 2000, with the Patriots having to send a first-round pick to get him. Everything worked out in Patriots land.

Had Belichick left New York for Miami in 1998, it's anyone's guess how his career would have played out after that. Johnson resigned after the '98 season but ended up coming back in 1999, before retiring for good. If Belichick had been there, perhaps he would have taken over for the Dolphins, and perhaps he would have drafted Tom Brady in 2000, and perhaps Miami would have a bunch of Super Bowls while the Patriots would have a rotating cast of coaches and quarterbacks over the past 20-plus years. (Then again, the Dolphins likely wouldn't have lost 62-7 in a playoff game against Jacksonville if Belichick was the defensive coordinator, so who knows if Johnson would have retired when he did if his buddy Bill had been around.)

The Patriots are surely happy that such an alternative universe doesn't exist.

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