Before Bill Belichick won any of his seven Super Bowl rings (two as Giants defensive coordinator, five as Patriots head coach), he nearly joined the Vikings as an assistant coach under Les Steckel in 1984.
Belichick, during Thursday night’s premiere of the latest ESPN 30 for 30 installment “The Two Bills” chronicling his relationship with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, recalled when he verbally accepted a defensive backs coach job in Minnesota before the 1984 season.
Belichick was the Giants linebackers coach and special teams coordinator under Parcells, then a first-year head coach in 1983. That season went poorly with the Giants finishing 3-12-1, so Belichick faced “one of the real crossroads in my career,” he told the ESPN broadcast.
“That was a tough year for the Giants, for Bill [Parcells],” Belichick said. “And when the year was over, Les Steckel had become the head coach at Minnesota and Floyd Reese was also there. So I knew Floyd from when we coached together with the Lions. He called me and said would you be interested in coming up here and working for the Vikings?
“I talked to Bill and he said, you know what, we’re on shaky ground here. You know, if you want to go ahead — do what you gotta do.”
So Belichick, who on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium will coach to tie Curly Lambeau and George Halas for his sixth NFL title as head coach, told Steckel he would join the Vikings for the 1984 season as a defensive assistant.
“I went up there and it was good,” Belichick said. “I loved Floyd and Les and all that and I really appreciated Bill giving me that opportunity.”
As the story goes, it wasn’t meant to be for Belichick, who returned to Parcells’ staff after he was granted the chance to leave.
“In the end, that is probably what made me want to stay more than anything,” Belichick said. “So I came back and said Bill, I’m not going to Minnesota and I want to be here and I want to do everything I can to make this work.”
Three seasons later, the two Bills won their first of two Super Bowls together in New York. Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor needed convincing once Parcells promoted Belichick to defensive coordinator for the 1985 season.
“I didn’t like that,” Taylor said. “I thought that was the wrong decision. I went to Bill Parcells and said: ‘Hey listen, you’ve got to be kidding me.’ And Bill said: ‘Oh yeah, he’s a defense guru.’ I’m like man this guy has never played football in his life. He’s probably used to ping pong or something.”
It worked out.
“Parcells assured myself and everybody that the defenses we were running back in ’81 and ’82 were designed by Bill Belichick,” Taylor said. “That kind of took the edge off a little bit.”