HomeSportsBelichick out as Pats coach after 24 years, 6 Super Bowls: Sources

Belichick out as Pats coach after 24 years, 6 Super Bowls: Sources

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Bill Belichick is out as New England Patriots coach after 24 seasons with the franchise, team sources said, a massive shakeup between a coach and franchise that for so long were synonymous with success.

The move came after New England finished the 2023 season with a 4-13 record, their worst season since 1992, and the third time in four years the Patriots have finished with a losing record. ESPN first reported the news.

Owner Robert Kraft and Belichick met multiple times since the season ended. Their meetings were cordial and professional, but they chose to go in different directions.

Belichick can seek another job now. Kraft can bring in a new voice, one likely to modernize the Patriots and be more open to collaboration. Both Kraft and Belichick will speak at a news conference at noon ET on Thursday.

Belichick is unarguably one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, guiding quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty to six Super Bowl victories and ranking second all-time in wins (including playoffs) among head coaches with his 333, which trails only Don Shula (347). New England posted a winning record in 20 of his 24 seasons with the team.

But in the four years since Brady departed, the Patriots are 29-38 with one playoff appearance and no postseason wins. New England started this season 2-10, losers of five straight at one point, and finished the season averaging just 13.9 points per game, tied for the fewest in the NFL.

Hired away from the New York Jets by Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 2000, Belichick helped build the Patriots into arguably the NFL’s greatest dynasty. Together with Brady, he led New England to 19 consecutive winning seasons, 17 division titles, nine AFC championships and six titles (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016 and 2018). His 31 postseason wins are the most by a head coach in NFL history, with 30 of those coming with the Patriots.

With Brady at quarterback, the Patriots never finished below .500. Since he left, it’s happened three times. They made one playoff appearance in the four seasons post-Brady and were blown out 47-17 by the Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card round at the end of the 2021 season. They haven’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl LIII.

That’s when things started to crumble. A decade of draft struggles caught up to the team with Brady no longer around to cover up management mistakes. Belichick, who is known for his gruff demeanor, was the only head coach in the NFL with complete say over his roster and had no general manager working alongside him. That roster fell apart in recent years.

Belichick will also be remembered for multiple run-ins with the league, including the “Spygate” controversy in 2007 that led to a fine and docked draft picks, as well as the “Deflategate” scandal in 2015 that led to a four-game suspension for Brady.

No other coach, though, can match Belichick’s success. His six Super Bowls are two more than any other head coach, and he won two others as an assistant to Bill Parcells. Belichick leaves with an astounding 266-121 regular-season record with the Patriots.

But now, the once-unthinkable has happened. Belichick’s reign atop the Patriots is over. Kraft made clear before the season began that he wanted the Patriots back in the playoffs. Belichick felt he had built a roster capable of competing for a division title.

Instead, the Patriots finished in last place in their division for the first time since 2000, Belichick’s inaugural season in New England.

The success that followed was unparalleled. But Belichick’s actions were one of the main reasons Brady wanted out in 2020. In the four years that followed, Belichick wasn’t able to build a team that could compete in the playoffs. That’s why Kraft felt he’d seen enough, agreeing to split with the most successful coach of his generation and eyeing a fresh start.

What went wrong

The Patriots seemed on an upward trajectory at the end of the 2021 season. Quarterback Mac Jones was coming off a successful rookie season and the defense was still promising. But with every decision since getting blown out by the Bills in the wild-card round that postseason, the Patriots have gotten further and further from contending.

Jones’ growth as a quarterback was stunted in 2022 by Belichick’s decision to have him work with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, neither of whom had run an NFL offense. Belichick was convinced that the struggles of 2022 could be fixed with better and more intentional coaching, so he didn’t overhaul a roster that needed obvious help. That led to a disastrous 2023 where the Patriots played virtually every game with a worse roster than their opponent.

What’s next for Belichick?

It seems likely that he’ll pursue another coaching job, though it would need to be the right situation where Belichick could have the final say in roster construction — a situation he covets — while being paid more than $20 million per season. Belichick remains 14 wins shy of Shula’s all-time victories record, a mark he would like to surpass.

There aren’t many teams with openings that have a willingness to pay Belichick and hand over all power in their personnel department. The Atlanta Falcons have been interested in landing Bill Belichick for weeks, league sources said. Belichick isn’t the only candidate they are targeting.

The Commanders, one of the other teams with a head-coaching vacancy, are not expected to pursue Belichick, a league source told The Athletic’s Ben Standig.

Who could be the Patriots’ next coach?

All eyes turn now to two people – Jerod Mayo, the current linebackers coach, and Mike Vrabel, who was just fired by the Titans after a six-year run there where he went 54-45.

The Krafts have been very impressed by Mayo going back to his playing days, when Belichick drafted Mayo No. 10 in 2008. They intervened when Mayo was going to take interviews elsewhere last offseason, and gave him a bigger contract to ensure he stayed in New England. The thinking around the league was that the Krafts were keeping Mayo as the coach-in-waiting behind Belichick. So he’s one of the two frontrunners.

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‘He’s Bill Belichick 2.0’: Could Jerod Mayo become the next Patriots coach?

The other is Vrabel, who brought stability to the Titans and helped them win two playoff games despite often having subpar quarterback play. The Krafts remain close with Vrabel, who was in New England earlier this season to be inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame. He sat next to Kraft for a Patriots game during the Titans’ bye week. The owners have long been impressed with Vrabel’s ability to lead a room and his record in Tennessee is made more impressive when considering that he started six quarterbacks during his six years there with Ryan Tannehill serving as the best one.

Those are the two expected to get the longest look from the Krafts when replacing Belichick. But here are a few other names (though less likely ones) that the Patriots might consider: Bill O’Brien, Brian Flores, Josh McDaniels and Patrick Graham.

GO DEEPER

With Bill Belichick out, 10 potential candidates for the Patriots’ head-coaching job

Required reading

(Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)



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