Bill Belichick’s time as coach and general manager of the New England Patriots isn’t guaranteed beyond the 2023 season, and it sets the stage for one of the biggest storylines in the NFL.
Could the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach be on the outs in New England after a 23-year run with the team?
It’s weird to say it out loud considering everything Belichick has meant to the Patriots franchise. He’s the brains behind drafting the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, and creating a dynasty that will stand the test of time as the standard for all professional sports.
But nothing lasts forever in this world. The Patriots have fallen to the bottom of the league due to shockingly bad personnel decisions that have left many pointing a finger directly at the top. Robert Kraft will have to make one of the hardest decisions he’s ever had to make as the Patriots’ owner. Is it time for him to move on from Belichick?
There are at least three clues that hint that’s the direction the Patriots could be going at the end of the season.
Standing pat at the trade deadline
The Patriots not making moves ahead of the trade deadline could be looked at in a multitude of ways. Perhaps Belichick really didn’t think he was getting enough value back for some of the more tradeable players on the roster. So he decided to stand firm in his conviction and not shake things up.
There’s also the possibility that he wanted to keep the roster intact to try and win as many games as possible before the end of the season. What good would selling and acquiring future draft assets do for a coach that might not even be with the team beyond this season?
If Belichick was on the outs, it would make more sense for him to play things out and win as many games as possible the rest of the way. Not only would it soften the blow of a disastrous season, but it would also put him closer to breaking Don Shula’s all-time wins record.
The Patriots are coming up on a slate of winnable games where they can add some cushion victories to make themselves look slightly better by the end of the season.
With games against the Washington Commanders, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers coming up on the schedule, there’s a real chance the Patriots could sneakily come away with four or five wins. It’s easier to do that with players like Mac Jones, Josh Uche, Kyle Dugger and Ezekiel Elliott on the roster than playing elsewhere.
Who is making the decisions?
It was odd hearing Belichick distance himself from some of the personnel decisions made by the team, as if he wasn’t the one signing off on everything that happens in New England.
“There’s no way I could possibly do that [have his finger on the pulse of every single player brought to him],” said Belichick, when appearing on “The Greg Hill Show” earlier in the week. “I mean, coaching is a full-time job. Personnel is a full-time job. At some point, definitely [come] together, be on the same page and figure out what’s best for the team. But you can’t be a full-time personnel person and be a full-time coach. It’s impossible.”
"There's no way I could possibly do that. Coaching is a full time job, personnel is a full time job"
Bill Belichick discusses his role in regards to the personnel decisions made by the Patriots. pic.twitter.com/4xn6OikzOX
— The Greg Hill Show (@TheGregHillShow) October 30, 2023
If being both a head coach and de facto general manager is impossible, Belichick must be Superman because he’s been doing it for years.
Things were clearly better when Tom Brady was the quarterback of the team, but at the same time, Belichick deserves respect for being the architect behind the greatest dynasty in NFL history.
But the fact that he’s distancing himself from that process is a bit interesting, especially considering all of the heat that has fallen on him recently. It isn’t like Belichick hasn’t made bad personnel decisions in the past, but with Brady under center, the team still found ways to win and be competitive every year.
With that no longer being the case, Belichick’s job is legitimately coming into question for the first time in his more than two decade tenure with the team.
Time is a factor
True opportunities to build a football team don’t come around often, especially for a team like the Patriots. However, in 2024, they’ll be positioned with the second-most cap space in the NFL, along with potentially earning a top-five or top-10 pick in the draft.
At 71 years old, is Belichick really the person that needs to be around making decisions that could impact the Patriots for the next decade to come?
It doesn’t make sense at this point, particularly when it hasn’t worked for the last four seasons. Belichick has a way of doing things, and that obviously isn’t going to change at this point in his career. Even Tuesday’s rumored interest in Chase Young for the Patriots should scare fans that it would be business as usual if the legendary coach remains in the power position.
Kraft has reportedly been frustrated behind the scenes, and earlier in the year, he didn’t commit to just keeping Belichick around to chase a record.
Robert Kraft on Belichick: I’d like him to break Don Shula’s record but… We’re looking to win and win now. It’s very important we make the playoffs next season.
— Mark Daniels (@ByMarkDaniels) March 27, 2023
When it comes to the business of winning, the Patriots might be better off without Belichick, the general manager, even if Belichick, the coach, is still very good at what he does.
The problem is the inability to separate the two.
Another potential positive is the Patriots might have a shot at double dipping at the top of the draft board if they trade Belichick to the Washington Commanders. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio floated the rumor out there after speaking with someone he trusted about the situation.
It would be an ironic way to end things considering Belichick’s arrival in New England came in a trade with the New York Jets. The Patriots were able to land the future Hall of Fame head coach for a first-round draft pick. If they have a shot at getting the same value again from a team like the Commanders, it might benefit both sides involved to make the move.