I've known the parties involved, Belichick and Bill Parcells, since covering the Giants for Newsday in the mid-'80s. I got to know Parcells better over the years while my relationship with Belichick was fairly superficial. Though he tried to convince me otherwise at training camp this year, I still believe to this day that Belichick jobbed the Jets by walking out on them. Most people would assume I come down on that side of the argument because I have a closer relationship with Parcells than I do with Belichick. Untrue. It's because Belichick had a contract with the Jets that said he would be the coach of the team as soon as Parcells quit, whenever that was. And a few months before the 1999 season -- not long before owner Leon Hess died -- Hess gave Belichick a $1 million bonus. Parcells told me it was to reinforce the terms of the contract and to thank Belichick for not taking any other head coaching jobs (in Chicago, Oakland or Kansas City). Belichick told me it was for a job well done and for not taking any of the three aforementioned jobs; thus, after the Jets' ownership change, he was free to take the New England job.
Therein lies the heart of this sordid story, which has been dredged up in Megalopolis a few more times this past week. Did the $1 million bonus Hess paid Belichick bind him to the Jets no matter who owned the team? I know people in both organizations, and there is great division on whether Belichick was contractually bound to stay in New York. My problem with the story is this: Whether Belichick was contractually bound is irrelevant. He was morally bound. He signed with the Jets to take over the day Parcells left. Walking out on the Jets was wrong.