The Kraft factor to consider in Belichick's potential Patriots exit originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
How do you go about severing ties with a head coach who boasts a Hall of Fame resume but is 4-13 in his last 17 games?
That's the conundrum the New England Patriots and team owner Robert Kraft may face this offseason. While Bill Belichick is under contract through 2024, per our Tom E. Curran, there's a growing belief that the Patriots will part ways with the legendary head coach after what could be his worst season in 24 years with the franchise.
But what exactly would Belichick's Patriots exit look like? Would Kraft outright fire his head coach despite the six Super Bowl titles Belichick brought to New England over two decades? Or would he seek a more graceful split that involves a trade to another team and/or a "mutual parting of ways" that includes a tribute to Belichick's many accomplishments?
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand on Thursday to explain why Kraft may be motivated to pursue the latter path -- beginning with a 1-on-1 conversation with Belichick in the near future.
"I do think it makes sense if you're Robert Kraft -- where they are as a team gives you the opportunity to address this privately," Breer said. "It doesn't have to get to the players. It doesn't have to get to the other coaches. It doesn't have to get to people in the front office. It could be man-to-man, you and him."
Co-host Scott Zolak pointed out that Belichick may not care if Kraft fires him -- he'd get his paycheck either way, and if he wants to continue coaching, he'd be free to join another team without that team having to give up draft compensation to land him.
As Breer observed, however, Kraft may not love the optics of firing one of the greatest head coaches of all time less than four years after letting the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, walk out the door in free agency.
"I don't know if Bill would care. I think Robert really cares," Breer added. "I think Robert is sensitive to it. I think Robert is especially sensitive to it because of the way the Brady thing ended. Especially with the Hall of Fame stuff and everything else, he does not want to be known as the owner who signed off on getting rid of Brady and then fired Belichick.
"So, I think he'd like to have this look a certain way. Then it comes down to whether or not Bill is willing to accommodate that."
Kraft was one of 12 semifinalists to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2024, but his bid fell short for the second straight year. Making the Hall of Fame seems to matter very much to Kraft, and if he thinks an outright firing of Belichick would hurt his legacy, that would give him plenty of motivation to pursue another course.
If there's enough interest in Belichick from other NFL teams, then trading him this offseason makes the most sense. That would allow both Belichick and the Patriots a fresh start, and allow Kraft to avoid an acrimonious split with his high-profile head coach while getting compensation in return.
To hear more from Breer, Zolak and co-host Marc Bertrand on Belichick's future and his dynamic with Kraft, check out the full discussion in the video player above.