Bill Belichick, Patriots mutually agree to part ways after 24 seasons

The Patriots found unprecedented postseason success under Belichick, going 30-12 in 18 playoff appearances. The 30 postseason victories are more than any coach in NFL history. The six Super Bowl victories are the most by any single head coach in NFL history.

Considered the greatest coach of the modern era, Belichick’s receiving only three NFL Coach of the Year awards underscores a brilliance often taken for granted. Other franchises cycled through peaks and valleys at expedient rates; the Patriots remained among the most revered franchises for more than two decades.

The man who brought The Patriot Way to the NFL — an approach all others have miserably failed to co-opt — legendary gruff press conferences and celebrated championships with workmanlike “No Days Off!” exclamations left a lasting imprint not only on New England but the entire NFL during his reign.

Belichick’s tenure with the Patriots got off to a bizarre beginning after he spurned the New York Jets by famously writing his resignation on a napkin before an awkward press conference. Eventually, the Jets and Patriots worked out a trade for a first-round pick, and the Belichick era in New England began.

In his first season, the Patriots compiled a 5-11 record in 2000. From there, the franchise skyrocketed to dynastic status.

In Year 2, Belichick made his most famous move, sticking with second-year quarterback Tom Brady, who helped lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. Belichick’s scheme against Marshall Faulk and “The Greatest Show On Turf” in Super Bowl XXXVI went down as one of the most masterful defensive plans in NFL history.

Powered by a smothering Belichick defense and Brady’s heroics, the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004, the last franchise to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in successive campaigns.

The Patriots morphed several times under Belichick’s regime from defensive-focused in the early years to an explosive offense in the Brady-Randy Moss seasons to a squad that won three consecutive AFC Championships (2016-2018) with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The only season New England didn’t make the postseason from 2003 to 2019 was 2008 when Brady injured his knee in Week 1. The Patriots still won 11 games that season with Matt Cassel at the helm.

Drama followed the Patriots on and off the field during their decades of dominance, from Spygate to Deflategate. Despite it all, the Pats racked up wins.

Through all the dips and dives of the Belichick era, playoff theater reigned. Highlights included the first upset run to the title, back-to-back Lombardis, a 16-0 regular season record that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, the second Big Blue loss, dramatic championship wins over the Seahawks and Falcons, and the defensive mastery of offensive savant Sean McVay in Super Bowl LIII.

Even after Brady left for Tampa Bay in 2020, Belichick helped get the Patriots back to the postseason in 2021 with rookie Mac Jones under center.

Things, however, bottomed out the past two years for the coach and de facto general manager. Years of questionable drafts and coaching decisions left the Pats vulnerable. The struggles of Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in 2021, combusted a talent-poor offense, and a solid defense couldn’t compensate.

Belichick’s final season, a 4-13 campaign, marked the worst season in the coach’s career — in New England or Cleveland. Prior to 2023, the Patriots had not lost 12-plus games in a season since 1992 (went 2-14 in that season before they hired HOF Bill Parcells, Belichick’s mentor, as head coach in 1993).

New England struggled in every aspect in 2023, ranking in the bottom five in points per game (13.9, tied for last in the NFL) and turnover differential (-11). The Pats D allowed 21.5 points per game, the third worst in the Belichick era.

The Patriots’ season ended on Jan. 7 with a 17-3 loss at home to the Jets, and one day later Belichick told reporters that it was too early to discuss his future and that he was “still under contract.” Three days later, the most-discussed story in the NFL has a conclusion.

As with most divorces, the end wasn’t pretty, but the highs of the Belichick era peaked at the mountaintop and crescendoed far longer than any franchise in NFL history.

History will remember the Super Bowls, the Hall of Fame players, the championship parades, the grumpy pressers, and eloquent 10-minute dissertations about long snapping. History will remember the Belichick era in New England as a dynasty for the ages. A dynasty with which all other dynasties will be compared.

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