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Belichick relishes talks with Raiders owner after '98 season

Bill Belichick knew he didn't stand a chance when he interviewed for the Oakland Raiders' head-coaching gig after the 1998 season.

Belichick had cut his teeth as a defensive coach, of course, and was coming off a successful season as D-coordinator for a Jets team that reached the AFC Championship Game. But his background made him an unnatural fit for a Raiders franchise known for hiring offensive-minded coaches.

Belichick's hunch was right, as Raiders owner Al Davis eventually filled the position with a young offensive guru named Jon Gruden. But Belichick came out of the meetings with a new understanding of the Raiders' operation.

"You know, it was good because we talked a lot about football and (Davis is) very, very knowledgeable about the game, personnel, schemes, adjustments and so forth," Belichick said Friday as his Patriots prepare to face the Raiders this weekend. "He was asking a lot of questions about what (the Jets) did defensively.

"You kind of don't want to give too much information there because you know, he's running the defense," Belichick went on. "He wasn't really too interested in talking about offensive football."

Belichick is a serious student of the game, capable of reciting deep cuts of NFL history with ease. He recalled telling Davis in his interview that the Raiders hadn't hired a head coach with a defensive background since Eddie Erdelatz in 1960.

"He's a great mind," Belichick said of Davis. "It was unlike any other interview I've ever had with an owner because he was so in-depth, his interview was so in-depth really about football, about 'Xs' and 'Os' and strategy and use of personnel and acquisition of -- all the things really that a coach would talk about, that's really what he talked about. That made it pretty unique."

We'll never know if Davis and Belichick could've co-existed, though based on Davis' history, it's unlikely. Belichick remained with the Jets under Bill Parcells for one more season before defecting to New England. The "Tuck Rule" Game happened two years later, linking the two men and their teams forever.

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