To the casual football fan, media member and oddsmaker, Bill Belichick might have been viewed as the favorite to land the Atlanta Falcons head coaching job this offseason.

But to those inside the Falcons organization, the future Hall of Famer wasn’t even close.

In a wide-ranging story published Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham and Jeremy Fowler reported that Atlanta viewed at least three coaching candidates above Belichick.

Those candidates included Raheem Morris, who ultimately accepted the Falcons head coaching position after he was the unanimous first choice. That one is rather obvious, though Belichick reportedly was blindsided by it at the time.

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Additional candidates that reportedly ranked above Belichick included second choice Mike Macdonald, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator who was hired as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and Bobby Slowik, the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, who ranked third.

The group ranking Atlanta’s candidates included Falcons owner Arthur Blank, CEO Rich McKay, general manager Terry Fontenot and team president Greg Beadles.

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ESPN reported neither McKay nor Fontenot wanted to work with Belichick. They feared Belichick would inevitably want to run the team, despite the longtime Patriots de facto general manager reportedly telling Blank he only wanted to coach.

Blank liked the idea of hiring Belichick, and he left his initial meeting with Belichick thinking he found his guy, ESPN wrote. But given the opinions of others in the Falcons front office along with a reported “stark assessment” of Belichick’s character from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Blank and company went in a different direction.

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Featured image via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images