This finality had become inevitable. At the end of a season where everything went wrong for the New England Patriots, the divorce between the team and its head coach of the last 24 seasons, Bill Belichick, will be pronounced on Thursday.
The news was announced by the American network ESPN. The Patriots will hold a press conference at noon.
The Pats finished the year with a 4-13 record, Belichick’s worst statistical record since he took over in 2000. The Boston organization missed the playoffs for the third time in four years.
However, a huge page is turning in the NFL. No other coach had more mileage with the same team than the 71-year-old. During his more than two decades in New England, he won six Super Bowl titles. No other coach will have allowed his team to enter the playoffs 11 seasons in a row.
It’s hard to know at this point if Belichick will return to help another NFL team one of these four. But if the time has truly come for the Nashville native, his career will be remembered as one of the most prolific in NFL history.
He initially alternated between relatively senior positions with several organizations between 1975 and 1990. Belichick served as a special consultant for the Baltimore Colts and the Detroit Lions. Then assistant on special teams and on the defensive unit with the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, before becoming defensive coordinator for the same Giants. In 1991, the Cleveland Browns offered him the head coaching job. The Browns made the playoffs just once during his five-season reign.
The Patriots then hired him as defensive backs coach in 1996. The following season, the New York Jets made him their defensive coordinator. Then in 2000, until this Thursday, he was at the helm of the Patriots as head coach.
Every good thing must come to an end, as the proverbial expression goes. If Belichick had his hour of glory between 2014 and 2018, winning three championships, his aura had weakened in recent seasons. In fact, since the dismantling of the team as we knew it in the late 2010s. Belichick never seemed to recover from the departure of his faithful companion, Tom Brady, in 2020. Whether with Cam Newton, Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe at quarterback, Belichick was never able to improve the image of his team again.
Still, his defensive genius and his ability to produce players that no one believed in will forever be an integral part of his legend. Players like Brady, Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski would probably never have had such flamboyant and memorable careers if they had not evolved in the great Bill’s system.
Conversely, on the defensive end, even though the spotlight was shone on Brady and his cohorts, Belichick won multiple rings thanks to his attention to detail, acuity and intelligence. Just think about the 2018 Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams, where Belichick put on a real clinic.
And what about this spectacular comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, when at one point his team was trailing 28-3. His handling of the game will go down in history not only as the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, but as one of the great performances by a head coach.
Belichick’s track record may be the most impressive of all, but it still contains some asterisks.
The most important scandal in which he was involved will undoubtedly remain SpyGate. On September 9, 2007, an NFL security guard caught a Patriots employee videotaping New York Jets signals on camera, which is strictly prohibited.
Belichick was fined $500,000, a record for a head coach in NFL history at the time. The Patriots also lost their first-round pick in the 2008 draft.