The Patriots have been the NFL’s best and most consistent team since Bill Belichick took over as the team’s head coach in 2000. He has won six Super Bowls and led New England to a whopping 17 division titles, including 11 straight from 2009 to 2019 and 16 of 17 beginning in 2004.
However, in recent seasons, the Patriots’ performance hasn’t been as strong. They have made the playoffs just once since Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay and, for the most part, their offense has struggled.
But the team has reached new lows in 2023. The Patriots are on a pace to post one of the worst offensive seasons in more than a decade. They enter their Week 14 matchup with the Steelers at 2-10, good for the worst mark in the AFC and behind only the 1-11 Panthers in the entire NFL.
If the Patriots had an ordinary coach, then he probably would have been fired by now. However, Belichick is no ordinary coach. He is arguably the greatest in NFL history; and given that he turned the Patriots into a dynasty, parting with him won’t be an easy decision.
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But will Robert Kraft and Co. be able to pull the trigger and give the Patriots a fresh start? Here’s what to know about Belichick’s job security and who might be in line to replace him if he’s fired.
Will the Patriots fire Bill Belichick?
Belichick’s future with the Patriots remains murky. At present, it seems like both sides are hoping to find a new start in 2024. That said, getting out of the 24-year marriage could prove messy.
On one hand, the Patriots haven’t been competitive this season, and that’s largely thanks to Belichick. The team’s offense seems broken beyond repair, with Mac Jones on his third offensive coordinator in as many pro seasons. They are averaging a dismal 12.3 points per game through 13 weeks, and that’s on a pace to be the fewest since the Rams averaged 12.1 points during the 2011 season.
On the other hand, Belichick’s defense has remained solid in 2023 despite losing cornerstone pieces Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez to season-ending injuries. They rank eighth in yards allowed per game and 16th in scoring defense, a mark that would certainly be better if New England’s offense didn’t consistently put the unit in bad positions.
So it’s clear that Belichick still has something to offer as a coach. He simply needs better personnel and depth on his team.
Of course, Patriots fans will point out that the lack of quality personnel is Belichick’s fault. That is true, as Belichick is in charge of the team’s roster and has retained that power for most of his reign in New England, so that performance issue falls back on Belichick as well.
So, seemingly, that would tip the scale in favor of the Patriots parting with Belichick; and NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran reports that is the direction in which the Patriots have been leaning since their loss in Germany against the Colts.
“When they came out of Germany, conversations I had that week made it very clear that a decision was made,” Curran said. “They were going to play out the string, and at the end of the year, there would be a parting of the ways for a variety of reasons.”
The second part of the equation is where it gets difficult. How do the Patriots approach his departure? Belichick has won the team six Super Bowls and led them to unparalleled success, after all. And though Belichick, 71, may be past his prime, there are still plenty of teams around the league that would like to give him a shot as their next head coach.
That leads the Patriots to an interesting quandary. Do they fire Belichick before the end of the season to put a merciful end to his tenure in New England, or do they hold onto him in the hopes of trading him for a future draft asset?
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that Robert Kraft and Co. want to take the latter approach to avoid losing Belichick for nothing. That’s sensible, as it would give the team’s new brain trust another asset with which to work.
And as Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports, there is some level of interest from teams across the NFL in trading for Belichick. At least three rival executives across the NFL believe he could fetch a first-round selection on the trade market.
“He (would) likely have multiple suitors,” a team executive said.
Still, some others told Howe that they had concerns about Belichick’s ability to relate to players and his potential desire for general manager duties wherever he lands. The latter could prove to be a dealbreaker in any potential trade.
Either way, it looks like Belichick could be spending his final season with the Patriots. Maybe that will change if he agrees to overhaul the team’s front-office structure, but for now, it seems like New England is ready to bring in just its second coach of the millennium.
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Potential Patriots coaching candidates to replace Bill Belichick
Replacing Belichick will be no easy task, however. The Patriots will be an attractive job, as they have a well-built organization and are in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, so that will be enough to draw the attention of some of the top coaching candidates across the NFL.
But Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. He set a standard of success the Patriots must routinely live up to to avoid disappointing fans and ownership alike.
That could put a lot of pressure on any first-time head coach taking that role. Even savvy veterans will be facing high expectations that could crush them.
Thus, it would make sense for the Patriots to target a coach who has experience with the organization and the talent needed to succeed Belichick. They could simply opt for the latter and hope that a paradigm shift would provide the team with the spark it needs to break out of its extended slump — though some may be averse to ditching “the Patriot Way.”
Here’s a breakdown of the top candidates the Patriots could chase if Belichick and the organization part ways.