Is Belichick's Patriots exit ‘inevitable'? HOF exec pushes back

Is Belichick's Patriots exit ‘inevitable'? HOF exec pushes back originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It once felt like heresy to even consider the New England Patriots parting with Bill Belichick. But with New England in the AFC basement at 2-7, some now believe it's very possible -- if not inevitable -- that Belichick isn't back with the team in 2024.

So, how should we be thinking about Belichick's future? Is the writing already on the wall for the legendary head coach assuming his Patriots miss the playoffs for the third time in four years? Or is there a chance team owner Robert Kraft entrusts Belichick -- who's under contract through the 2024 season, per our Tom E. Curran -- to turn things around and kick-start New England's rebuild?

Bill Polian has a unique perspective on that question after over a decade of dealing with both Kraft and Belichick as general manager of the rival Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2011. Joining Curran on a new Patriots Talk Podcast, the Hall of Fame executive explained why he doesn't view Belichick leaving the Patriots this offseason as "inevitable."

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"I'm not sure I agree with that, Tom," Polian said. "And here's why: First of all, when you're there day-to-day, it feels a lot worse than it really is. Joe Paterno, who was a great mentor of mine, used to say, 'You're never as good as you look when you win, and you're never as bad as you look when you lose.' And that's very, very true.

"So you when you step away -- which you have to do as an executive; Mr. Kraft has to do that, Bill has to do that, every executive has to do it- -- you try to look at it objectively and say, 'OK where are we?' The reset has begun. Bill (Belichick) said it. So, 'Where are we along that timeline with respect to coaches, players, staff, etc.?'"

"That's Question 1. And then Question 2 is, 'How long is this going to take to get to the point where we can now become truly competitive?' Because it's fair to say that they're not truly competitive."

The Patriots are now 27-32 since Tom Brady left the team in 2020 and lost their lone playoff game in that span by 30 points. Polian admitted that players like Brady can help teams cover up "a magnitude of sins that no one else notices," and those "sins" seem to be getting exposed in the post-Brady era.

But rather than Kraft handing Belichick the pink slip this offseason, Polian envisions Kraft and Belichick having a pragmatic conversation about the state of the franchise -- which could ultimately result in Belichick's exit, but easily could produce a different solution.

"The question is, 'How do you conduct this reset going forward?'" Polian said. "I think there are two people that are party to that discussion. The first one is, Does Bill want to do it? I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to. And secondly, where is Mr. Kraft on that issue? So, no one has the answer to that.

"But I don't think there's any inevitability to it, either. I know both men, and I know how analytically-driven -- I don't mean analytics (based on) numbers, I mean (how) analysis-driven that they are and (how) fact-driven that they are. But I don't think either one thinks it's inevitable. The question is, 'What's the best path forward?'"

Also discussed in this episode:

  • Polian weighs in on the current state of the Patriots.

  • Is Belichick the right guy for a reset?

  • Polian makes the case for sticking with Mac Jones.