As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
The Patriots parting ways with longtime head coach Bill Belichick, according to ESPN and other reports Thursday. It comes shortly after New England wrapped up a disappointing 4-13 record in 2023, marking the worst season in Belichick’s 29-year career in the league.
For the past 24 years, the 71-year-old has been at the helm of the Patriots, bringing immense success to New England for a majority of his tenure. Along with legendary quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick created a dynasty with the Patriots that ran over two decades, totaling 14 AFC East titles, nine AFC Championships and six Super Bowl wins.
In total, Belichick finishes his time in Foxborough with a record of 266-121.
So why did the Patriots decide to let go of one of the greatest head coaches of all time? Here’s what you need to know.
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Why did the Patriots fire Bill Belichick?
The breakup between the Patriots and Belichick ultimately was a mutual one.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft elected to move on from the head coach after 24 years with the organization. ESPN reported Kraft and Belichick met periodically during the week to discuss how each side felt about the future, and there was reportedly no conflict and that the two sides agreed a split would be best for both.
Per ESPN, a source outside the Patriots’ organization said both Belichick and Kraft “took the high road.”
In a brief press conference on Thursday afternoon, Kraft called Belichick the greatest coach in NFL history but added, “this is a move that we mutually agreed is needed at this time.”
Belichick didn’t offer details about the split, but he spoke glowingly of Kraft and the Patriots organization.
The Patriots could have opted to retain Belichick’s contract and decided to trade him to a different organization. When Sean Payton came out of retirement, he was traded from the Saints to the Broncos since he was still under contract with New Orleans. However, ESPN reported Kraft will not be attempting to trade Belichick, who had one year left on his deal in New England.
Kraft and Belichick will be addressing the mutual split at noon ET in a press conference.
While Belichick is without a doubt regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, the post-Brady era in New England was underwhelming. In the four seasons without Brady, Belichick and the Patriots posted a record of 29-36, resulting in just one playoff appearance and zero postseason victories.
This year was the cherry on top — for all the wrong reasons. Belichick never finished with fewer than five wins until 2023. While the Patriots did not have high expectations coming into the year, a number of embarrassing, un-Belichick-like losses and a lack of discipline ultimately proved to be too much for a change not to occur.
On the other side, the divorce from the Pats allows Belichick to take on a new challenge elsewhere. While he is the second-oldest active head coach in the league, Belichick still has his legacy on his mind. He sits third on the all-time wins list among NFL head coaches, trailing George Halas by 16 wins and the all-time leader Don Shula by 26.
There was nothing left for Belichick to prove after winning six Super Bowls and bringing the Patriots to a level of dominance rarely seen in professional sports in the modern era. But while his run with the Patriots is over, he doesn’t appear to be done coaching just yet. Per multiple reports, Belichick has interest in continuing his coaching career.
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Who will replace Bill Belichick in New England?
With Belichick no longer in New England, the favorite appears to be Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
A former defensive star under Belichick, the 37-year-old has been viewed as the most logical in-house promotion. Last year, the Panthers were interested in Mayo for their head coaching vacancy, but after conversations with Kraft about his future in New England, Mayo ultimately elected to decline an interview and signed a lucrative contract extension to stay in New England.
In addition to Mayo, another former Patriots defensive star has been loosely tied to Belichick’s position: Mike Vrabel. The current Titans head coach is coming off a disappointing 6-11 season in Tennessee, with his run-heavy scheme not nearly as dominant as it used to be when running back Derrick Henry in his prime.
While Vrabel has denied any interest in leaving the Titans, it is unclear if he is on the hot seat or not in Tennessee.
Vrabel was named the 2021 Coach of the Year, but the Titans missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season this year. If the Titans do elect to part ways with the 48-year-old, a potential reunion with the Patriots could be in the cards.