Bill Belichick will no longer serve as New England Patriots coach after a remarkable 24 seasons, saying Thursday that “we’re going to move on” while also looking back fondly at his unmatched run in NFL history that included six Super Bowl titles.
Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent a good part of this week periodically meeting and discussing how each side wanted to proceed. From sources familiar with those conversations, there was said to be no conflict, no disagreement, and in the end, productive talks resulted in a mutual decision that left both sides comfortable and at ease.
During a news conference Thursday, Kraft called Belichick the greatest coach of all time who deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“This is a move that we mutually agreed that is needed at this time,” Kraft said. “What Bill accomplished, in my opinion, will never be duplicated.”
Belichick, who said he will “always be a Patriot,” thanked Kraft and his family for the opportunity and support, saying: “We had a vision of building a championship football team that has exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations. I’m very proud of that. I’ll always have those great memories, will carry those with me the rest of my life.”
Belichick, who had one year remaining on his contract, will be allowed to leave the team without the Patriots seeking compensation. He will want to continue coaching and is expected to draw interest from at least some of the other seven NFL teams that have head-coaching vacancies, quite possibly the Atlanta Falcons, league sources said.
“It’ll be difficult to see him in a cutoff hoodie on the sideline, but I’ll always wish him continued success, expect when it’s against the beloved Patriots,” Kraft said.
The Patriots now will embark on their first head-coaching search in a quarter century. Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, whom the team signed to a contract extension in the offseason and Kraft has identified as a rising head-coaching candidate, projects to be a, if not the, leading candidate for the job, sources said. Mayo played for the Patriots from 2008 to 2014 and has been an assistant under Belichick since 2019.
Kraft said in a second news conference Thursday that he chose not to try to trade Belichick, saying he “didn’t think it was right” to turn the coach’s departure into a transaction and comparing the circumstances to Tom Brady leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We’re looking for someone who can help us get back to the playoffs and win,” Kraft said.
Brady posted about Belichick’s departure on Instagram, calling him “the best coach in the history of the NFL.”
“We accomplished some amazing things over a long period of time, many of which will be hard to replicate,” Brady wrote. “He worked every day to help us achieve the ultimate goal, in the ultimate team sport. … I could never have been the player I was without you Coach Belichick. I am forever grateful. And I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next.”
Belichick’s exit from New England occurred less than 24 hours after his close friend Nick Saban retired from Alabama.
There is a symmetry and a similarity in the departures of two football legends — men who are widely considered the greatest coach in professional history and the greatest coach in college football history. Belichick helped lead the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl titles; Saban led Alabama to nine SEC titles and six national championships.
Additionally, Saban succeeded Pete Carroll as the Ohio State secondary coach in 1980; when Belichick was head coach in Cleveland, he worked with Saban from 1991 to 1994; and Belichick replaced Carroll as the Patriots’ head coach in 2000, decades before all three vacated their long-standing jobs this week in a 24-hour period.
The fact that Belichick and Kraft are going their own ways carries an element of sadness, but not surprise. Kraft had pointed out how important it was for the Patriots to make the playoffs this season. Instead, they were one of the first teams eliminated, on Dec. 10.
Speculation about Belichick’s future swirled during the 2023 season, with one of the lowest points for the team coming Nov. 12 in a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany.
Before that game, addressing this past season, the 82-year-old Kraft told NFL Network: “It’s really been disappointing. I had hoped things would be a lot better, as I know our fan base did. … This isn’t what we were expecting to happen this year.”
Another key factor for Kraft was the franchise’s trajectory since Brady’s departure as a free agent after the 2019 season. Since losing Brady, which pained Kraft, the Patriots have posted losing records in three of their four seasons, and their last playoff win was a 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019 — when Brady was on the team.
Belichick, 71, leaves New England with 333 career victories (including playoffs), ranking second all time behind Don Shula and his 347. Belichick, George Halas and Curly Lambeau are the only NFL coaches with six championships since the league began postseason play in 1933.
Belichick’s 24-year tenure was the fifth-longest of any head coach with one team. He had completed his 49th consecutive NFL season in 2023, the most consecutive coaching seasons in league history.
He is now looking to spend season No. 50 with another NFL franchise.
Kraft called it an “emotional day” for the organization while explaining why he believed it was the right decision.
“Our family is the custodian of this asset, the New England Patriots, and we know how important it is to the psyche of the community,” Kraft said. “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.”
As he departs New England, Belichick’s résumé includes these marks that are expected to stand for the foreseeable future:
• 17 division titles, the most by a head coach in NFL history, with Shula, Andy Reid and Tom Landry tied for second with 13.
• Nine conference championships, the most by a head coach in the Super Bowl era.
• 12 Super Bowl appearances (including his time as an assistant).
• 21 winning seasons as a head coach, which trails only Halas (40), Shula (33), Lambeau (33) and Landry (29).
• One of four undefeated and untied regular seasons in NFL history (2007). It was the only one under the 16-game schedule played from 1978 to 2020.
“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.”