The Bill Belichick-Patriots separation was presented as a mutual and amicably agreed-upon decision.

However, the main actors involved might have been drenched in bad blood.

Robert Kraft reportedly played a “big part” in Belichick not landing the Atlanta head coaching job, as New England’s longtime owner apparently attacked his former colleague’s character in a private conversation with Falcons owner Arthur Blank. As for Belichick, he reportedly flirted with his own kind of vengeance when he cut ties with Kraft and went on the job search.

“On paper, the Cowboys seemed to make sense: Belichick and Jerry Jones are decades-long friends, and both are in win-now mode,” ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. wrote in a column published Tuesday. “Nobody is better than Belichick at converting a talented roster into a championship team. And Belichick told a friend that he liked the idea of sticking it to the Krafts by working for Jones. But Jones, for all his flash, bluster and vows this offseason to go ‘all-in,’ is change-averse when it comes to head coaches. He decided quickly after Dallas’ blowout exit in the wild-card round to let Mike McCarthy coach the final year of his contract.”

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The door in Dallas quickly closed on Belichick this past offseason, but there seemingly is a chance it reopens next year. McCarthy should enter the 2024 season on the hot seat, and the Cowboys reportedly are one of the teams Belichick is interested in coaching following his year off.

So, an unsettling scenario still is on the table for Kraft and the Patriots, which only will be compounded if New England struggles mightily in its first season under Jerod Mayo.

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