There aren’t many figures in the NFL who appear “untouchable.” It’s a realm of success so unattainable, so impossibly unlikely, that there’s almost nobody that feels like they can call their own shots in football.
Bill Belichick has always been one of those people, but perhaps not for much longer.
Increasing whispers out of New England are getting louder, and now it’s appearing like Belichick is on the hot seat. The Patriots’ lack of success since Tom Brady’s departure, paired with some significant personnel missteps has led to reports that owner Robert Kraft might actually be willing to pull the trigger and make a coaching change after this season.
️ @tomecurran— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) July 17, 2023
“He’s been there with different levels I’d warmth since 2019.”
The @NBCSBoston #Patriots insider told us if this could really be Bill Belichick’s final year in New England:#NFL pic.twitter.com/VxoT5PPGJM
It goes without saying that Kraft has the freedom to do whatever he wants, but just because he can part ways with Bill before he’s prepared to retire, doesn’t mean that he should. Let’s explore why New England should move on, and why even thinking about that possibility is beyond the pale.
Why the Patriots should get rid of Bill Belichick
- Middling success over the past three seasons
- Inability to compete in the AFC East
- Horrible recent draft history
- Jerrod Mayo is waiting in the wings
You can really look at each of these factors bleeding into each other. The draft has been a significant issue for the Patriots over the past several years. This goes beyond the decision to select Mac Jones as Brady’s heir apparent, and more towards the lack of value New England has found in the draft over the past five years compared to the rest of the NFL.
Once a hallmark of the Belichick era, the team simply isn’t finding the mid-to-late round gems they once did. This is compounded by the fact that New England is no longer a premier destination for free agents. Look no further than DeAndre Hopkins, who spurned the team after a visit to sign with the Titans.
Weighted Approximate Value (wAV) is a metric used by Pro Football Reference to loosely evaluate a player’s career. A higher number is obviously best, with Tom Brady being the gold standard at a 205. If we look at Patriots’ drafts from the mid-2000s to the mid 2010s their draft classes were littered with players who had great careers found beyond round one: Sebastian Vollmer (52), Rob Gronkowski (78), Marcus Cannon (43), Logan Ryan (41), Shaq Mason (47) — just to name a few. When you couple this with solid first round drafting you build sustained success.
Since 2018 the highest-drafted Patriots player in wAV is Ja’Whaun Bentley (28), meanwhile in that same time period the team has selected THIRTY FIVE players with a wAV of less than 10. Their hit rate on picks has been worse than the Houston Texans over the same period.
The writing really appeared on the wall when the Patriots chose to give Jerrod Mayo a huge extension to stay with the team, rather than risk losing him to another head coaching job around the NFL. This is an organization that is clearly planning for the future, and while Belichick remains one of the greatest football minds in history, there are cracks showing in his brilliance when it comes to building a team.
Why the Patriots can’t get rid of Bill Belichick
- It’s a PR nightmare
- He’s Bill freakin’ Belichick
Yes, this list is a lot shorter than the reasons why he should leave, but they carry much more weight. Prior to Belichick’s arrival in 2000 the Patriots had eight winning seasons in 20 years, and went to the playoffs seven times. In the 22 years under Belichick they’ve finished with a winning record 20 times, and been to the playoffs 18 times.
That kind of success breeds an immense amount of reverence. Something that earns ultimate trust from fans. As spoiled as Pats fans have been, it’s a lot to lose Tom Brady AND Belichick in a short time period — and would be even worse if Bill decided to keep coaching and found success elsewhere.
It almost feels like this is a scenario where you have to take your lumps and let Belichick leave at his own pace. The man is 71-years-old — surely he doesn’t plan to keep coaching that much longer. At what point are another three or four losing seasons worth letting Bill amicably sail off into the sunset without the angst of pushing him out the door?
What’s going to happen?
Bill Belichick isn’t an idiot. Deep down even he needs to acknowledge that a lot of the magic is gone. It’s not that he doesn’t have the ability to turn things around, but it’s increasingly difficult to see how that can happen with New England’s roster as constructed.
Quarterback is a significant problem. Mac Jones has largely been solved by NFL defenses, and he lacks the athletic ability to find another element to his game. It’s now clear he’s not Brady 2.0, and another middling QB who can’t put this team on his shoulders.
This creates a scenario where Kraft and Belichick will likely have a deep talk when the season is over if New England fails to make the playoffs again. It’s the end of Belichick’s contract, so it would be the right time for him to retire from football and get enshrined in Canton in his first ballot.
Yes, this really could be it for Belichick and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify keeping him on with the way the Patriots are headed — as much as that hurts.