Bill Belichick, the architect of six Super Bowl-winning teams with the New England Patriots, ended his 24-year run as the team’s head coach and gave a brief farewell on Thursday.
He thanked owner Robert Kraft, who stood to Belichick’s left, and the more than 1,000 players he coached, his family and dozens of coaches and staff members.
“At this time, we’re going to move on. I look forward and excited for the future,” Belichick said, ending his monologue with a handshake and thank you with Kraft.
“We had a vision of building a winner (and the results) exceeded my wildest dreams.”
His voice cracking when referencing Patriots fans, Belichick largely kept his goodbye statement light and didn’t take questions.
“Good morning. I haven’t seen this many cameras since we signed (Tim) Tebow,” he opened.
Players from Tom Brady to Ty Law to Tedy Bruschi recognized as iconic Patriots said there were plenty of tense days between coach and owner during their successful run together.
“Like a good marriage, a successful head coach or a relationship requires a lot of hard work. I’ve very proud our partnership lasted 24 years,” Kraft said. “I trusted my instincts to bring Bill back in 2000, after immediately regretting not hiring after working together in 1996. When I did hire him, I was still making the transition from the fan who bought tickets in ‘71 on the metal bleachers with my boys to owner.
“We had high expectations for what we could achieve together. I think we were the only ones that had those expectations. I think it’s safe to say we exceeded them, thanks to you.”
Brady took to social media to applaud Belichick, who served as his coach from 2000-19.
“I’m incredibly grateful to have played for the best coach in the history of the NFL,” Brady wrote on Instagram.
“He was a great leader for the organization, and for all of the players who played for him. We accomplished some amazing things over a long period of time, many of which will be hard to replicate. He worked every day to help us achieve the ultimate goal, in the ultimate team sport. And, although we were successful, some of the greatest lessons I learned were in the moments where we faced the most challenging adversities. He set the tone for the organization to never falter in the face of adversity, and to do what we could do, and what was in our control, which was to go out and DO OUR JOB.
“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 has a head-coaching record nine Super Bowl appearances and plans to continue coaching, which will bring a new round of emotion for Kraft.
“I recognize that it also is a very emotional day for many of our fans, for most of our fans. It represents the end of an era. Hopefully it will always be celebrated in this region,” Kraft said. “Coach Belichick will forever be celebrated as a legendary sports icon here in New England and I believe go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Why? He’s the greatest coach of all-time.”
Seven other NFL teams have openings for a head coach, and the 71-year-old Belichick has a resume beyond compare. NFL Network and ESPN report at least three teams have serious interest in him. NFL Network reported the Atlanta Falcons, who fired Arthur Smith on Sunday, will be at the head of the line to talk to Belichick and would be willing to give him full control of the football operation as a coach, general manager and vice president.
Belichick has one year remaining on his contract, which invited speculation the Patriots would attempt to trade him to another team. ESPN reported a trade is not being considered and Belichick is free to pursue other head-coaching opportunities.
“This was a move we mutually agreed was needed at this time,” Kraft said in closing. “I thank coach Bill for his hard work and dedication. It’ll be difficult to see him in a cutoff hoodie on the sideline. But I’ll always wish him continued success, expect when it’s against the beloved Patriots.”
Belichick becomes the third coaching legend in two days to depart his role. Super Bowl-winning coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks split Wednesday after 14 seasons. Alabama head coach Nick Saban — a close friend of Belichick’s — also announced his retirement after 17 seasons and six national titles in Tuscaloosa and seven overall.
Belichick leaves New England with a 266-121 record in the regular season, plus a 30-12 mark in the postseason. His NFL head-coaching career began with the Cleveland Browns (1991-95), where he was 36-44 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason.
His 333 career wins are second only to Don Shula’s 347. Belichick, George Halas and Curly Lambeau are the only NFL coaches with six titles.
In Belichick’s 24 seasons, the Patriots won 17 AFC East titles, went to 13 AFC championship games and played in nine Super Bowls.
“This is the best coach that ever lived,” ex-Patriots linebacker Bruschi said Thursday on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“Bill Belichick could get every drop of physical ability, mental ability, football-playing ability out of you somehow, some way … and if you were a player that wanted to win championships, that’s exactly what you wanted.”
Belichick turned around a middling franchise that had never won a title and created a dynasty.
In his first season with the Patriots, in 2000, the team was 5-11. The next season, after quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured, Belichick inserted second-year player Brady into the lineup, and the duo won its first of six Super Bowls with a 20-17 victory over the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Brady left the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 in free agency, and the Patriots were 29-38 without him, including 4-13 this season.
Finding Belichick’s replacement will be the next step for Kraft. Among the early leading candidates is believed to be 37-year-old Jerod Mayo, who played linebacker for the Patriots from 2008-15 and has been on Belichick’s staff since 2019.