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Pat Leonard: Cowboys, Eagles are fascinating potential Bill Belichick destinations if Dallas or Philly flop in NFL playoffs

It’s not as crazy as it sounds: Bill Belichick could be the Dallas Cowboys’ or Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach next season if Mike McCarthy’s or Nick Sirianni’s teams flop in the NFL playoffs.

In Dallas, owner Jerry Jones is likely to lose defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to another head coaching job. And a home loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — or a second-round exit the following week — could put McCarthy in the line of fire.

In Philly, owner Jeffrey Lurie’s Eagles have lost five of their last six games. The Boston native once tried to buy the New England Patriots, and although Sirianni took Philadelphia to the Super Bowl last season, this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

Lurie once scrapped Doug Pederson, the only Super Bowl-winning coach in franchise history, just three years later. So a Wild Card meltdown on Monday in Tampa could prompt change.

Both the Cowboys and Eagles have top quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts, plus tons of talent on their rosters.

So Belichick, 71, the NFL’s top free agent after Thursday’s mutual parting of ways with the Patriots, would be inheriting a team with the infrastructure to compete for a Super Bowl immediately.

He is definitely taking another job and coaching in the 2024 season. That’s clear. Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a hilarious allusion to that as a forgone conclusion on Thursday.

“It’ll be difficult to see him in a cut-off hoodie on the sideline,” Kraft said. “But I will always continue to wish him continued success, except when he’s playing our beloved Patriots.”

But Belichick isn’t going to take just any job.

He is 15 wins shy of passing Don Shula (347) for most all-time by an NFL head coach, including regular season and playoffs. And he is one Super Bowl short of Tom Brady (you don’t think that matters?).

It doesn’t make sense to take on a long-term rebuild like the one he just left in Foxborough, Mass.

The Washington Commanders and Atlanta Falcons are expected to be suitors, for example, but they don’t seem like ideal places to hit the ground running. Both franchises need QBs and overhauls of major processes and culture.

The Giants, even, would be crazy not to call Belichick and gauge his interest in helping them reverse their downward spiral. But the organization’s quarterback situation, infrastructure and limited roster probably would rule them out, too.

Belichick just went from Brady to Mac Jones. He doesn’t need a reminder of how important it is to inherit a top quarterback on his next team.

That’s what makes the Los Angeles Chargers an attractive and feasible option for the six-time Super Bowl winner: They have Justin Herbert.

But the Cowboys and Eagles are in a different class, especially Dallas. If Jones fired McCarthy, the Cowboys’ vacancy probably would jump to the top of everyone’s list, including Belichick’s.

Dallas’ roster is insanely talented. They’re loaded. Personnel czar Will McClay is one of the best in the business.

McCarthy has done a great job with the Cowboys this season under intense pressure to take the next step. But if he loses at home to the Packers on Sunday or even in the Divisional round, it will mean the Cowboys still haven’t played in an NFC Championship Game since 1995.

Jones could be looking at an all-time head coaching free agent list, too.

Belichick, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel already are all available. And there are rumblings that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin may decide to step away for a change or some time off when Pittsburgh is eliminated from this postseason, as well.

Jones already had to do some cleanup on Aisle 5 this week when he didn’t fully commit to bringing McCarthy back for a fifth season after his team’s final regular season game.

“We’ll see how each game goes in the playoffs,” Jones said, according to the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram.

Not to mention that Belichick’s good friend Bill Parcells — maybe you’ve heard him — once capped his coaching career with a four-year run in Dallas. And he would presumably endorse the match and be a useful resource to navigate the politics of an unfamiliar organization.

In a funny way, Belichick’s free agency now is a lot like Brady’s coming out of the 2019 NFL season: He’s an all-time great that no one ever expected to be available who is now free.

It will mean several suitors. It will mean leverage for Belichick. It will threaten to throw off the new balance of the league.

And it might just mean a couple NFL owners pulling the plug on their current regimes knowing that the chance to hire the greatest coach of all time is too big an opportunity to pass up.