Belichick out after 24 seasons

Published 9:40 am Friday, January 12, 2024

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick had a vision of building the kind of sustained championship football team that had seldom been seen before in the NFL when he was hired by the New England Patriots.

He walks away feeling like it was a job well done.

The six-time NFL champion agreed to depart as the coach of the Patriots, ending his 24-year tenure as the architect of the most decorated dynasty of the league’s Super Bowl era.

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Belichick, 71, became the third coach in NFL history to reach 300 career regular-season victories earlier this season, joining Hall of Famers Don Shula and George Halas. With 333 wins including the playoffs, Belichick trails only Shula (347) for the record for victories by a coach.

But the Patriots ended

this season 4-13, Belichick’s worst record in 29 seasons as an NFL head coach. It supplanted the 5-11 mark he managed in his last year in Cleveland in 1995 and again in his first year in New England in 2000. Including the playoffs, he ends his Patriots tenure with a 333-178 record.

Belichick’s exit from the Patriots comes a day after another coaching great and longtime friend Nick Saban announced he’d retire after winning seven college national championships. Saban worked for Belichick’s father, Steve, in the 1980s as a coach at Navy, and Bill Belichick hired Saban as his defensive coordinator when he became Cleveland’s head coach in 1991.

“It’s with so many fond memories and thoughts that I think about the Patriots,” Belichick said on Thursday in a media availability with owner Robert Kraft. “I’ll always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here. But at this time, we’re going to move on. And I look forward, excited for the future.”

Neither Belichick nor Kraft took questions, though Kraft said during an availability later in the day that the team missing the playoffs in three of the last four seasons factored into wanting to sever their relationship.

“What’s gone on here the last three to four years isn’t what we want. So we have a responsibility to do what we can to fix it to the best of our ability,” Kraft said.

Speaking to reporters from the podium where he had given so many terse, non-responsive postgame recaps, Belichick appeared in a jacket and tie and spoke first, followed by Kraft. The coach even smiled a couple of times — including when he conceded respect for the media “even though we don’t always see eye to eye.”

He also thanked the fans for “the sendoffs, the parades, the Sundays.” But most of his time was spent thanking the people throughout the organization, especially the more than 1,000 Patriots players he coached in his time here.

“Players win games in the NFL,” Belichick said. “I’ve been very, very fortunate to coach some of the greatest players to ever play the game.”

Belichick is expected to resume his pursuit of Shula’s record elsewhere.