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Bill Belichick's strategy? Business as usual until further notice

Bill Belichick's strategy? Business as usual until further notice originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The takeaway from Bill Belichick’s day-after press conference? Business as usual until Bill’s told otherwise.

“I’m going to do everything I can every day to do the best to help our football team,” Belichick said in an early-morning Zoom call. “That’s what I’ve always done. It’s never been any different for me in my career. I learned that lesson from my dad growing up. You work for the team you’re working for and do the best you can for it until somebody tells you different.”

Belichick could be told different as soon as Monday. But it doesn’t sound like he’ll be the one to bring it up by asking, “Are we done here?”

Somebody’s going to have to tell Bill Belichick to stop showing up.

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After noting that he’s “under contract,” Belichick said that after meeting with players and putting a bow on administrative things, they’ll start “putting the pieces back together in terms of setting things up to go through a good, detailed analysis and to kind of start a reconstruction, if you will.”

If you’re scoring at home, this is the first time in 24 years Belichick’s clued anyone in on his contract status directly. Though a nugget dropped when the Patriots fell to 1-5 in October that Belichick was locked up for the next “several years,” we soon learned that he’s up after the 2024 season.

It's also the second time this year and third time since 2020 he’s talked about starting over. The first came when he talked about the cap reset in the first year post-Brady after going “all-in.” After the team’s 34-0 loss to the Saints, Belichick said the team would “start all over."

They went 3-8 through Sunday. On Monday, Belichick said the team would begin the "reconstruction" process.

It wasn’t a threat that he’d have to be dragged out kicking and screaming. But it did carry an undercurrent of, “If you want a parting, go ahead and part. The feeling we should do that is not mutual. Until then, I’ll be down in the lab.”

It’s a direct challenge. Does ownership, after subtle and not-so-subtle ultimatums delivered the past few years, have the belly to follow through on the decision it made to move on? Or will they pivot and change their minds, daunted by the specter of having their Belichick succession plans accelerated by a year?

While Belichick indicated he’d entertain a role change and accept a little less responsibility, he was well short of saying, “I’ll do anything to stay.”

More accurately, his statement on GM duties proactively debunked the notion it’s all on him.

“I'm for whatever, collectively, we decide as an organization is the best thing to help our football team,” he said. “I have multiple roles in that, and I rely on a lot of people to help me in those responsibilities. If somebody's got to have the final say, I rely on a lot of other people to help. And, however that process is, I'm only part of it.”

You know that old saying, “Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan”? Seems like Belichick is pointing at the 2023 season and saying, “That’s not my kid.”

It’s an inspired strategy after 24 seasons for Belichick to assert he’s just a cog in the machine. Is it true? Yes. To a point. The personnel approach has been more collaborative than it was prior to 2021. And – with Belichick’s coaching services needed on offense in 2022 (to help Matt Patricia and Joe Judge) and 2023 (working with the offensive line) – the Patriots defense has been the baby of Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick for the past two years.

But regardless of how Belichick wants to divvy up individual credit (Christians Barmore and Gonzalez) or blame (Mac Jones, offensive line woes), it’s his football team. Every personnel decision is informed by his coaching preferences on what he likes in a player. Every scheme decision is informed by what he wants. The mood and disposition of the team and the organization flows from his 71-year-old power source.

Belichick recoils at the notion of “The Patriot Way.” He thinks it’s pithy mythology. But there is a Bill Belichick Way (which would be a nice name for a street down there at Patriot Place someday, but that’s for another time.)

The Krafts have lived with it for 24 years. The return on investment of money, time and headaches has been more than anyone could have dreamed. Profits are down. Losses are up.

“In the end, this is a business,” Robert Kraft said in March. “You either execute and win or you don't. That's where we're at. I think we're in a transition phase."

If they truly are, someone needs to tell Belichick. Because he's about to get to work.