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Bill Belichick and the Vikings: Another “almost”

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History was almost altered by. . .Les Steckel?

New England Patriots Media Availability Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The story that this comes from is nearly a year old, but given that Bill Belichick is back in the Super Bowl. . .again. . .it’s worth taking a look at once again and talking about.

Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has brought us the story of the time that Belichick almost became a part of the Minnesota Vikings’ coaching staff in the early 80s.

This came at a time when the Vikings were in serious flux. At the end of the 1983 season, legendary head coach Bud Grant said that he would not be returning to the Vikings’ sidelines. The team promoted wide receivers coach Les Steckel to the head coaching spot, and one of his first moves was to demote then-defensive coordinator Bob Holloway. His intention was to fill that spot on the coaching staff with Belichick, who at the time was a linebackers coach for the New York Giants under Bill Parcells.

The Vikings brought Belichick in for an interview, and from Steckel’s recollection, things had gone fairly well.

“He said he wanted to meet with several more people in the organization, and here’s the punch line that no one knows about,” Steckel said. “He went back to his hotel room that night and he said he just wanted to mull things over. The plan was we were going to meet with Bill at 8 a.m. the next day and talk about salary and those things. I thought it was a done deal.”

It was a done deal. . .until it wasn’t, as Steckel would find out the next morning.

“Then at 6 o’clock the next morning, I was up and ready to go to the office and Bill calls me. He says, ‘Les, I need to tell you something. I’m at the airport and I’m going home (to the New York area).’ I say, ‘But Bill, we haven’t even had a chance to sit down and talk yet.’ He said, ‘Les, I’ve talked to several people in the building and I would just like to say to you that you had better be alert, you had better be aware. I just don’t have a good feeling, Les.’ ”

Steckel still isn’t sure who Belichick spoke to in Minnesota that turned him away from taking the job as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator, other than noting that he spoke to then-General Manager Mike Lynn.

As it turned out, Belichick’s premonitions were fairly accurate. The 1984 season turned out to be a clusterfudge of monumental proportions, ending with the Vikings finishing with a 3-13 record in what might have been the worst season in franchise history. Steckel was fired after that season, and Bud Grant came back to the sidelines for the 1985 season before turning things over to Jerry Burns.

Given the success that Belichick has had over the course of his career, you have to wonder how much. . .if at all. . .the trajectory of his coaching career would have changed if he had decided to take Les Steckel’s offer back in 1984.