With Bill Belichick’s Departure, Erosion of NFL’s Greatest Dynasty Is Done

After 24 seasons and six Super Bowls, the fall of the house of Belichick is complete

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former coach Bill Belichick.
Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick are parting ways after 24 years.
Maddie Meyer/Getty

A day after his close friend Nick Saban ended his historic reign as the coach of Alabama and the man he replaced as head coach in New England, Pete Carroll, was politely shown the door by the Seattle Seahawks, Bill Belichick and the Patriots reached the “elegant solution” team owner Robert Kraft had been hoping for — a “mutual decision” to part ways, according to ESPN. Leading to that decision, there were “productive talks” throughout the week that were held with “no conflict” and “no disagreement” which resulted in both Belichick and Kraft taking “the high road,” per an ESPN source.

Kraft and Belichick plan to address the media about their decision together and they will likely attempt to further sugarcoat the fact that the former was forced to fire the latter because mistakes by both parties, including their mutual mistake to let Tom Brady leave New England without getting anything in return, which helped reduce a franchise that won six Super Bowls over two decades of dominating the NFL to a talentless team that struggled to win four games this season.

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Though Brady’s departure will always be what most people point to as the pivotal point in the fall of the Patriots, there were plenty of other errors and management mistakes — years of poor drafting, over- and under-spending in free agency, an unwillingness or inability to update the so-called Patriot Way — that got Kraft and Belichick to where they are today. No one may have wanted to admit it, but Kraft firing Belichick was a long time coming, no matter what they want to call it. They tried to put lipstick on that pig, but it was headed to slaughter regardless.

After all, did Belichick look like a man who had any intention of coming back to coach in New England when he left the field on Sunday after allowing the Patriots to lose to the New York Jets for the first time since Obama was president? No, and any voiced speculation that Belichick’s talks with Kraft this week would result in anything other than his departure from New England was a waste of air. His time was more than up and both sides knew it.

With Belichick gone, the Patriots will look for their first new head coach in a quarter of a century and attempt to resurrect the organization back into a contender while 82-year-old Kraft is still around to enjoy a potential Super Bowl run. Mike Vrabel, who played for the Patriots and won three championships with New England, is on the radar after he was fired earlier this week by the Tennessee Titans. Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who played for the Patriots from 2008 to 2014 and has been an assistant under Belichick since 2019, is also a leading candidate.

Belichick, whose 333 career victories (including playoffs) are only second to Don Shula (347) on the all-time list, is almost certainly going to be on the sidelines somewhere next season for his age-32 season. The Atlanta Falcons, who have never recovered from blowing a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, are the favorites to land the veteran coach.

The optics of Belichick leaving a prestigious organization like the Patriots for a somewhat irrelevant NFC South team like the Falcons are not good…but they are familiar. After all, it was just four years ago that Brady bolted from New England and headed south to Atlanta’s division rival in Tampa Bay. A year later, Brady and the Buccaneers were Super Bowl champions and everyone in New England, including Belichick, was left to wonder what might have been had things been handled differently.

Now, with Belichick officially gone and the final nail in the coffin of the NFL’s greatest dynasty hammered in completely, the pondering in Foxboro can begin anew. From the moment it began 24 years ago when Belichick resigned from coaching the Jets with a note on a cocktail napkin so he could come and work for Kraft in New England, the Patriot dynasty was destined to end. But it didn’t have to end like this, with a flaccid whimper instead of a resilient roar. Regardless, it’s finally over. Kraft and Belichick’s “high road” led to a dead end.

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