Bill Belichick leaving the New England Patriots

BOSTON -- Bill Belichick is leaving the New England Patriots after an historic 24 years as head coach, ending one of the most successful runs in NFL and sports history.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft part ways

The Patriots made it official at noon with an announcement on their website and social media that simply said, "The Patriots and Bill Belichick have mutually agreed to part ways."

Moments later, at a packed news conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Belichick and Robert Kraft appeared together for the last time as owner and head coach. Both made statements and neither took questions.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, January 11, 2024. / Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images
Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, January 11, 2024. / Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Belichick spoke first saying, "I haven't seen this many cameras since we signed (Tim) Tebow. Robert and I, after a series of discussions, have mutually agreed to part ways."

"For me this is a day of gratitude and celebration. Start with Robert and his family. So much thanks for the opportunity to be a head coach here for 24 years. Such an amazing opportunity and I received tremendous support. We had a vision of building a winner, building a championship football team here and it exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations," Belichick said.

"The amount of success we were able to achieve together through a lot of hard work and the contributions of many people, I'm very proud of that and will always have those great memories. I'll carry those with me my whole life."

WATCH: Bill Belichick's final news conference with the Patriots

Belichick thanked Kraft, his coaches, his staff and players - past and present.

"Regardless on how long the players were or weren't here, the role was, how many games they played or even if they didn't win championships or didn't, I respect the way the players came here and did business. I've coached well over 1,000 and their ability to work, prepare, train in the weight room, train their bodies, meet, rehearse over and over again what we need to do things right to be successful to win, I have so much respect for all the players," Belichick said.

He also thanked the media and Patriots fans.

"To the media, you guys, I don't know if anybody has gotten more coverage than I have or we have over the last 24 years. A lot of respect for what you guys do. You are our voice to the fans. Even though we don't see eye-to-eye all the time, most of the time, not all the time, I do respect what you do," Belichick told reporters.

"The fans here are amazing. So many memories of the fans. The sendoffs, the parades, the Sundays. Whatever the situations are, the letters of support, seeing the fans away from here at a gas station or grocery store or wherever you bump into them. The Patriots fans here, and not just in New England but nationally and internationally as I've traveled. It's amazing how far the arm reaches, as we saw this year in Germany. I'm so appreciative to the fans for all the support they've given me, my family, and this football team," Belichick said.

Bill Belichick says "I'll always be a Patriot"

"There are so many fond memories and thoughts that I think about the Patriots. I'll always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here. But at this time we're going to move on. I look forward and am excited for the future, but I'll always be appreciative and supportive of Robert and what you've done for me."

The two shook hands and Kraft then took the podium, saying he and Belichick met Wednesday and "mutually agreed to part ways, amicably."

"Like a good marriage, a successful head coach-owner relationship requires a lot of work. I'm really proud our partnership lasted 24 years. I don't think in the NFL there has been any other partnership that lasted longer and has been as productive as ours," the owner said.

"Bill has taught me a lot over those years. And we had high expectations for what we could achieve together. I think we were the only ones to have those expectations. I think it's safe to say that we exceeded them."

Belichick chimed in, saying "We did" and Kraft responded, "Thanks to you."

Robert Kraft calls Bill Belichick "greatest coach of all time"

"This is an emotional day to me. Some of my happiest moments were shared with my family during Bill's tenure here. I recognize it's also a very emotional day for most of our fans. As it represents an end of an era. One that will, hopefully, always be celebrated in this region," Kraft told reporters.

"The man standing to my left brought the leadership and coaching skills that were needed to make this time of unprecedented success that we have had possible. Coach Belichick will forever be celebrated as a legendary sports icon here in New England, and I believe go in as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on the first ballot. Why? Because he is the greatest coach of all time," Kraft said.

"Which makes this decision to part ways so hard. But this is a move we mutually agreed that is needed at this time. What Bill accomplished with us, in my opinion will never be replicated. The fact it was done in the salary cap and free agency era makes it even more extraordinary. I thank Coach Bill for his hard work and dedication. It will be difficult to see him in a cut-off hoodie on the sideline. But I will always wish him continued success, unless he's playing our beloved Patriots."

Kraft then joked, "He's got a cold so I'm not going to kiss him." Afterwards, the owner reached out and hugged Belichick before both left the stage together for the final time as Patriots.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft hug briefly at Gillette Stadium, Thursday, January 11, 2024. / Credit: CBS Boston
Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft hug briefly at Gillette Stadium, Thursday, January 11, 2024. / Credit: CBS Boston

How Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft agreed on the end

ESPN's Adam Schefter and Mike Reiss reported that both sides "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."

"Belichick, who had one year remaining on his contract, will be allowed to leave the team without the Patriots seeking compensation," Schefter and Reiss wrote.

Watch: What's next for Patriots after parting ways with Bill Belichick?

"There's a surreal feeling down here," Reiss told WBZ-TV's Steve Burton on Thursday morning from Gillette Stadium. "There's certain days you walk into the facility and it feels different, almost like the ground is shifting under your feet. The sense was that it was going to end this way, but you never knew if maybe there was a chance it could turn at the last minute. I think we said it Steve, after the game, like a Hail Mary type situation. Didn't make it there. After 24 years, I think both sides feel like a fresh start is the best thing for both of them."

Robert Kraft answers questions on Bill Belichick's departure from the Patriots

While Kraft didn't take any questions when he and Belichick were together, the owner did meet with reporters a few hours later. He said the Patriots will move "very quickly" to find a new general manager and a new head coach. He also said it would not have been right to try and trade Belichick, much like he didn't think it would have been right to trade Tom Brady in 2020.

As for why Kraft felt the need to move on from Belichick, he said the recent results simply were not good enough.

"What has gone on the last three to four years isn't what we want. We have the responsibility to do what we can to fix it to the best of our ability," said Kraft.

Bill Belichick's final season with the Patriots

It's a decision that's been speculated and reported on for most of the second half of the season, after the Patriots fell to 2-10 (their worst record through 12 games since 1992) and failed to regain their footing. The Patriots finished the season 4-13, losing to the Jets at home in Week 18 to snap the franchise's 15-game winning streak over Belichick's former team.

Previously, the Patriots hadn't experienced a losing season like this one since 2000, which was Belichick's first year with the Patriots. That year, Belichick was establishing his program — a program that won six Super Bowls and nine conference championships from 2001-18. With rare exceptions, the Patriots were perennial championship contenders from the moment Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback until he left via free agency following the 2019 season.

Bill Belichick's record without Tom Brady

But in the years since, the Patriots fell back to the pack, going 25-25 from 2020-22 until the bottoming out this season. New England is 29-38 since Tom Brady left after the 2019 season.

A report earlier this season indicated that Belichick had signed a "lucrative, multi-year" contract before the season, though a clarification later revealed that the extension only ran through the 2024 season. Another report indicated that after the loss to the Colts in Germany (a loss that dropped the Patriots to 2-8), ownership decided to move on from Belichick.

Bill Belichick's career

The 71-year-old Belichick finishes his Patriots career with 266 regular-season victories and 30 playoff victories, far and away the most in franchise history. Mike Holovak (1961-68) ranks second in regular-season wins with 52, while Raymond Berry (1984-89) ranks second with three playoff victories.

Watch: Look back at Bill Belichick's historic tenure as New England Patriots coach

Belichick's six Super Bowl titles in New England are the most ever by an NFL head coach. His 333 wins (regular and postseason) are the second-most behind Don Shula's 347 victories.

Passing Shula reportedly remains a focus for Belichick. For a while, it seemed like he'd easily surpass the record toward the end of his historic coaching run with the Patriots.

Now, Belichick will have to try to reach the top of the record books with a new team, while the Patriots are looking for a fresh new voice to lead the franchise.

Who takes over for Bill Belichick as Patriots head coach?

Several people have been mentioned, but none more than two of Belichick's former players — Jerod Mayo and Mike Vrabel. Vrabel was fired earlier this week by the Tennessee Titans. Mayo has been part of Belichick's defensive coaching staff since 2019.

Where is Bill Belichick going?

Belichick has said he wants to keep coaching, especially since he's within reach of Shula's record for most wins. Here's a look at several teams that Belichick could coach next season.

Bill Belichick players react to his departure

Players, both past and present, paid tribute to Belichick on social media Thursday. NFL Hall of Famer Richard Seymour called Belichick "the greatest football mind to ever live" and included a goat emoji in a post to X on Thursday. Tom Brady also made a post on Instagram, saying in part, I never could have been the player I was without you Coach Belichick."

ESPN and the NFL Network first reported early Thursday that Belichick will not be back with the Patriots next season. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones and WBZ-TV later confirmed the reports.

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