Belichick Exits Patriots After 24 Seasons, Six Titles

Photo of Belichick exit New England Patriots.

Bill Belichick has opted to step down from his role as the coach of the New England Patriots after an extraordinary 24-season tenure, announcing on Thursday that “we’re going to move on.” Reflecting on his exceptional NFL career, which encompassed six Super Bowl titles, Belichick engaged in amiable discussions with Patriots owner Robert Kraft throughout the week.

According to sources, these conversations were devoid of conflict or disagreement, and the decision to part ways was a mutually comfortable outcome of constructive talks. Kraft, in a Thursday news conference, lauded Belichick as the greatest coach of all time, deserving of a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction. Characterizing the move as a necessary mutual agreement, Kraft underscored the unparalleled nature of Belichick’s achievements, noting their unlikelihood to be replicated.

Expressing gratitude, Belichick confirmed his perpetual allegiance to the Patriots, extending thanks to Kraft and his family for the opportunities and support provided. He highlighted the realization of their joint vision in constructing a championship football team that surpassed expectations, expressing pride in the journey and treasuring the memories for a lifetime.

Belichick, with only one year remaining on his contract, is granted permission to leave the team without the Patriots seeking compensation. Expressing a desire to continue coaching, he is expected to garner interest from some of the seven NFL teams currently seeking a head coach, potentially including the Atlanta Falcons, as per league sources.

Kraft acknowledged the difficulty of envisioning Belichick without his iconic cutoff hoodie on the sideline and extended best wishes for his ongoing success, except when competing against the Patriots. This signals the Patriots’ inaugural head-coaching search in a quarter-century.

Jerod Mayo, the team’s linebackers coach and a prominent head-coaching candidate, is seen as a top contender for the role. Mayo, who played for the Patriots from 2008 to 2015 and has been an assistant under Belichick since 2019, signed a contract extension in the offseason. If Mayo is ultimately selected and the Patriots have a succession plan outlined in his contract, the organization could appoint him at any time without adhering to the standard NFL hiring process.

During a second news conference on Thursday, Kraft disclosed his decision not to explore trading Belichick, deeming it inappropriate to turn the coach’s departure into a transaction. He drew parallels to Tom Brady’s move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, underscoring the unique circumstances surrounding both situations.

“We are on the lookout for someone who can help guide us back to the playoffs and secure victories,” Kraft stated.

Brady expressed his sentiments on Belichick’s departure via Instagram, praising him as “the best coach in the history of the NFL.”

“Over an extended period, we achieved remarkable feats, many of which will be challenging to replicate,” Brady conveyed. “Coach Belichick worked tirelessly every day to guide us towards the ultimate goal in the ultimate team sport… I could never have become the player I was without you, Coach Belichick. I am eternally grateful, and I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next.” Belichick’s departure from New England occurred within 24 hours of his close friend Nick Saban retiring from Alabama.

There is a symmetry and similarity in the departures of these two football legends—individuals widely considered the greatest coach in professional history and college football history. Belichick played a role in nine Super Bowl appearances and secured six titles for the Patriots, while Saban led Alabama to nine SEC titles and six national championships.

Expanding on the connection, Saban took over as the Ohio State secondary coach in 1980 after Pete Carroll, worked with Belichick from 1991 to 1994 when Belichick was the head coach in Cleveland, and Belichick replaced Carroll as the Patriots’ head coach in 2000. All three left their long-standing positions within a 24-hour period this week.

Although the separation between Belichick and Kraft carries a touch of sadness, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Kraft had stressed the importance of the Patriots making the playoffs this season, but they were eliminated on Dec. 10, marking an early exit.

Speculation about Belichick’s future circulated during the 2023 season, with one of the team’s lowest points being on Nov. 12 in a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany.

Reflecting on the past season, the 82-year-old Kraft expressed to NFL Network, “It’s been disappointingly challenging. I had hoped for a much better outcome, as did our fan base… This isn’t the scenario we anticipated for this year.”

Kraft also raised concerns about the franchise’s trajectory since Brady’s departure as a free agent after the 2019 season. Following Brady’s departure, which saddened Kraft, the Patriots have experienced losing records in three of the four seasons, with their last playoff victory being a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019, during Brady’s tenure. At 71, Belichick leaves New England with 333 career victories (including playoffs), ranking second all-time behind Don Shula and his 347.

Belichick, George Halas, and Curly Lambeau are the only NFL coaches with six championships since the league began postseason play in 1933. Belichick’s 24-year tenure ranks as the fifth-longest of any head coach with one team, completing his 49th consecutive NFL season in 2023, marking the most consecutive coaching seasons in league history.

He is now looking to commence his 50th season with another NFL franchise.

Kraft described it as an “emotional day” for the organization as he clarified why he believed it was the right decision.

“As custodians of this asset, the New England Patriots, our family understands its significance to the community’s psyche,” Kraft stated. “The developments over the last three to four years haven’t aligned with our expectations, so we have a responsibility to address it to the best of our ability.” As Belichick departs from New England, his resume includes achievements expected to endure for the foreseeable future:

• 17 division titles, the most by a head coach in NFL history, with Shula, Andy Reid, and Tom Landry tied for second with 13.

• Nine conference championships, the most by a head coach in the Super Bowl era.

• 12 Super Bowl appearances (including his time as an assistant).

• 21 winning seasons as a head coach, second only to Halas (40), Shula (33), Lambeau (33), and Landry (29).

• One of four undefeated and untied regular seasons in NFL history (2007). It was the sole one under the 16-game schedule played from 1978 to 2020.

“Players win games in the NFL,” Belichick noted. “I’ve been very, very fortunate to coach some of the greatest players to ever play the game.”


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