Iconic NFL coach Bill Belichick leaves Patriots after 24 seasons | Inquirer Sports

Iconic NFL coach Bill Belichick leaves Patriots after 24 seasons

/ 07:06 PM January 12, 2024

NFL coach Bill Belichick leaves Patriots

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speaks to the media during a press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2024 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Belichick announced he is stepping down as head coach after 24 seasons with the team. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Maddie Meyer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Bill Belichick, the NFL mastermind who guided the New England Patriots to a record six Super Bowl titles as head coach, parted ways with the team on Thursday after 24 seasons.

Belichick’s departure ends a championship era and concludes one of the greatest dynasty runs in American sport after taking over the Patriots for the 2000 campaign.

“There are so many fond memories and thoughts that I have when I think about the Patriots and I’ll always be a Patriot,” Belichick said.

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“I look forward to coming back here but at this time, we’re going to move on. Excited for the future but always be very appreciative of the opportunity here, the support here.”

Belichick forged a formidable partnership with former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the franchise’s glory years.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have played for the best coach in the history of the NFL,” seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady posted on Instagram. “We accomplished some amazing things.

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“I could never have been the player I was without you Coach Belichick. I am forever grateful. And I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next.”

Belichick’s 333 career game triumphs as an NFL head coach, including playoffs, rank second on the NFL’s all-time list, 14 shy of Don Shula’s 347.

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Belichick, 71, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, 82, announced the move in afternoon statements to reporters only four days after New England completed a 4-13 campaign — the worst season in Belichick’s career.

“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,” Kraft said.

“Why? Because he’s the greatest coach of all times, which makes this decision to part ways so hard. But this is a move that we mutually agreed is needed at this time.”

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Belichick did not address his upcoming plans except to say he is “excited for the future” but Kraft spoke as if he expects to see Belichick on the sidelines for an NFL rival soon.

“I will always wish him continued success — except when he’s playing our beloved Patriots,” Kraft said.

Belichick’s departure leaves eight NFL teams without a head coach, with speculation rampant about where he might coach next or if he would retire at age 71.

New England captured NFL crowns under Belichick in the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016 and 2018 seasons.

Belichick owns NFL coaching records for Super Bowl wins and appearances as a head coach with nine. His 31 playoff game triumphs is another coaching mark.

“For me, this is a day of gratitude and celebration,” Belichick said. “We had a vision of building a winner, building a championship football team here, and that exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations with the amount of success we were able to achieve together.”

Kraft said the split was made on Wednesday.

“We mutually agreed to part ways amicably,” Kraft said. “I’m very proud our partnership lasted 24 years.

“What Bill accomplished with us in my opinion will never be replicated. And the fact it was done in the salary cap and free agency era makes it even more extraordinary.”

The Patriots will embark on their first head coaching search in a quarter-century and hire a general manager, since Belichick was the de facto director of player personnel.

 Exceeded expectations

New England Patriots Tom Brady Bill Belichick

FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Foxborough, Mass.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Belichick began his NFL career in 1975 as an assistant coach for the then-Baltimore Colts.

His departure comes only hours after legendary University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, a long-time friend of Belichick, retired as coach of the college football powerhouse, a talent factory for the NFL.

Belichick, known for his glowering presence on the sidelines while wearing a hoodie and headset, took over as Patriots coach in 2000, replacing Pete Carroll, who parted ways with the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday at age 72 after 14 seasons.

“We had high expectations for what we could achieve together,” Kraft said. “I think it’s safe to say we exceeded them.”

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When superstar quarterback Brady departed after the 2019 campaign, Belichick’s Patriots began to struggle. New England has missed the NFL playoffs three of the past four seasons.

New England went 266-120 under Belichick over 24 seasons and won 17 AFC East division titles, the most by any head coach with one club, including a record 11 straight from 2009-2019.

Belichick was also a member of two Super Bowl championship teams with the New York Giants as a defensive coordinator. His first NFL head coaching job came at Cleveland, where he went 36-44 from 1991-1995 with only one winning season.

TAGS: Bill Belichick, NFL

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