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As complicated as everyone expects the divorce to be, let’s keep in mind this is also a guy who once famously scribbled his resignation on a cocktail napkin. Bill Belichick could send Patriots owner Bob Kraft a singing telegram on his way out the door of One Patriot Place and it still might not be any weirder than the way he broke free from the Jets.
Anyone with the slightest temperature for football (even Tiki Barber) can understand that the time has come for a change of the coaching regime in New England, where Belichick has ruled for a generation of unprecedented greatness (2001-2018) as well as periods of incompetent miscues (everything since). He won six Super Bowls while in New England. He also lost three while in New England, including carelessly throwing one to prove a point or something.
His game prep was once so impactful that it made the NFL change its rules in order to aid its favorite son in Indianapolis. He also once punted to the Jets in overtime. And you’ve probably already heard all the Canon/Canton jokes.
Regardless of whatever San Mateo coattails he may have ridden en route to becoming regarded as the best of all time at his profession, Belichick’s name will still go down as one of the most memorable names to ever coach in the sport. Lombardi. Landry. Belichick. It has a ring.
Maybe he’ll even get Don Shula’s wins record somewhere else if they’ll have him.
If the Krafts think that there’s any segment of their remunerating fan base pining for them to hang a “348” banner as the closing act of a dynasty, then they probably haven’t been checking their season ticket renewal rate lately. When it comes time to take care of what once seemed the unthinkable — firing William Steven Belichick as “HC of the NYP” — it is only the first step in a complicated process.
But the deeper the Patriots slip into what is turning into a lost season, one that has already started with a 1-4 record thanks in part to Belichick’s bad personnel decisions, the more straightforward it becomes.
That’s because while there’s the prevailing theory that Bob and Jonathan would never fire Belichick mid-season, out of the respect they have for the man they have employed for 23 years-plus in New England, there might come a point where he’s also damaging to the brand he once helped deliver to dizzying new heights. As if we need to see if there will be a “next time” that he pulls a stunt like Sunday’s late-game punting fiasco while down 24 points. Like Bill Belichick, the man who holds a grudge like BenJarvus Green-Ellis holds the football, isn’t going to go down without a fight?
What choice do the Krafts have then? Is it worth hanging onto rear mirror accomplishments just for a final stamp in the record book that nobody reads?
Maybe both parties will announce a mutual parting of the ways come January to stick the landing with a tidy Lexus-sized bow. Maybe Belichick will barricade himself in his office only to tell authorities that he’ll only negotiate with Ernie Adams, and nobody else. The jury is still out.
But if things continue to progress the way some fear they might, the Krafts may have no choice but to yank the band-aid off before season’s end, thus creating an off-field distraction for a franchise desperately seeking direction.
Cleaning house on the coaching staff isn’t so cut-and-dry. Kraft has already, kind of, hinted that linebackers coach Jerod Mayo may be in line to become the next head coach. What does that mean for guys like Joe Judge, Steve and Brian Belichick, and Adrian Klemm? Are they part of the package with Mayo? Or do they get shown the same door as the elder Belichick? Will the Patriots fire Bill O’Brien due to his association with Bill, or will the Patriots fire Bill O’Brien for his gross negligence on the offense? Things are going to get sticky.
As for Mayo, while he certainly would get head coaching looks elsewhere, New England has to decide internally whether or not placing another defensive mind is a smart idea in a position widely being taken over by young, offensive whiz-kids. Or, maybe after watching the Red Sox play Devil Ray cosplay, that should make him more appealing.
But the shift to a Mayo coaching kingdom is also like going from “Police Academy 5” to “Police Academy 6;” you’re going to recycle the same garbage again and try to make me believe it’s better? It’s going to take a whole lot more free parking on Route One for me to buy in on that one.
On the other hand, what coach is going to willingly walk into a situation where he has to keep the old coach’s kids and Mr. Kraft’s good pal on the staff? It’s fair to have the fear that the clean sweep the team desperately needs might not ever come.
These developments shouldn’t come as any earth-shattering surprise. If the Krafts weren’t already planning for how things might end with Bill when he kept trying to tell them about the genius of Matt Patricia (aka, another team is paying him), they’re being negligent if they aren’t now. The Patriots are headed for rock bottom and need new life. The same new life that, in retrospect, they’ve needed for a few years now.
There’s little chance Bill would coach in New England while letting somebody else shop for the groceries. He might somewhere else. Might the Maras welcome him back into the Meadowlands (Could you imagine Belichick going from Mac to Daniel Jones)? Maybe Belichick could do for Carolina what Bill Parcells once did for New England; give a bumbling laughingstock of a franchise some long-awaited legitimacy. Perhaps 72-year-old Pete Carroll, his elder statesman by a whole five months, will retire and Belichick will take over for him in Seattle for another 25 years. It’s happened before.
But it’s over in New England. That’s become painfully clear.
The only question might be, just how bad will it have to get week-to-week in order to put Belichick on notice.
I’d say being outscored 72-3 over the last two weeks might start that conversation. Let’s see how long the Krafts wait. Out of the same respect that Belichick refuses to convey for anybody these days.
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