Patriots, Bill Belichick To Part Ways

As expected, Bill Belichick‘s run in New England is set to come to an end in 2024. He and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have mutually agreed to part ways, ESPN’s Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter report.

As the report notes, the move – which will be officially announced later today – came after discussions between Belichick and Kraft over the past few days. Those talks occurred without “conflict” or “disagreement,” and now both sides have elected to go their separate ways. One of the key figures in the NFL’s preeminent 21st century dynasty now faces an uncertain future.

Belichick was under contract through 2024 as a result of an offseason extension. That pact was set to lengthen his stay in New England and give him a strong chance of breaking Don Shula‘s all-time wins record. However, the 2023 campaign saw the Patriots’ regression continue with a 4-13 record. That mark was the team’s worst during Belichick’s 24-year tenure with the team, and the season was punctuated with increasing speculation he would be gone by the start of next year.

A recent report indicated the six-time Super Bowl winner was willing to cede personnel duties as part of an agreement to remain with the Patriots. Belichick had served as New England’s head coach and de facto general manager since arriving in 2000. His missteps in a front office capacity (particularly in the draft) have limited the strength of New England’s roster over the past several years, though, which has in turn hurt his coaching performances. In four years after the free agent departure of Tom Brady – with whom Belichick partnered to go on an unprecedented run of success – New England has made the postseason only once and has not secured a playoff victory.

A key sticking point in speculation about the future of the Kraft-Belichick relationship was the manner in which it would come to an end. Still retaining the latter’s rights, the Patriots could have insisted on trading him to one of the numerous teams reported as having interest. That move would have ensured new England receive compensation, something which did not take place when Brady left. Belichick’s preference was obviously a path which made him a free agent, however, and that will now be the case. His market will be a major factor in the 2024 hiring cycle.

Schefter confirms Belichick will want to continue coaching in 2024 as his pursuit of Shula’s record continues. He needs 15 wins to move into first on the all-time list, so at least a two-year stint with his next team will likely be required. At the age of 71, questions about how long he will be willing to carry on his career have been raised, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes a robust market is expected to emerge for his services.

Many teams with HC vacancies – a list which now covers eight of the NFL’s 32 franchises – have been linked to one extent or another to the future Hall of Famer. The ESPN report names the Falcons in particular as one to watch as Atlanta seeks out an Arthur Smith replacement. After the rookie coach delivered three underwhelming campaigns, Belichick would represent a much more experienced option to take charge of a roster featuring a number of intriguing pieces (albeit a substantial hole at the QB position).

While Atlanta will no doubt have competition to pursue Belichick, at least one team on the lookout for a new coach is out of the running. The Commanders are not expected to have interest in a Belichick acquisition, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports. As expected, Washington moved on from Ron Rivera on Black Monday. The team is undergoing a major restructuring under new owner Josh Harris, who had been reported as a potential Belichick suitor. Instead, Harris will turn his attention elsewhere.

Of course, the way in which Kraft and the Patriots proceed in the coming weeks will be a major storyline. Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo (who turned down HC interest from outside teams last offseason and received a new Patriots deal to keep him in place) has frequently been named as Belichick’s heir apparent. The 37-year-old is indeed a top candidate amongst in-house options, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson confirms. She adds, however, that no coach from within the organization or amongst the outside options is firmly in the lead for the New England vacancy at this point.

Mike Vrabel has been named as a candidate to watch since his somewhat surprising Titans dismissal earlier in the week. Vrabel had a successful run as a player in New England and, by virtue of not being traded, he is free to pursue the New England gig if he wishes to hold the title of Belichick’s successor. Given the latter’s track record, whichever coach ultimately replaces him will face a daunting task given his illustrious career and lengthy list of accolades.

In all, Belichick will depart New England with a record of 296-133, 17 AFC East titles, nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships. His struggles without Brady – not to mention the numerous scandals the franchise was involved in during his tenure – will of course be a part of his legacy. However, his impact on New England and the NFL as a whole is undeniable, and his career is set to continue in a new setting for the first time in nearly a quarter century. Likewise, the coming changes on the sidelines and in the front office will make the 2024 offseason a seminal moment in Patriots history.

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