Bill Belichick is leaving the Patriots after 24 seasons, sources say

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are expected to part ways on Thursday after 24 remarkable seasons together, ending a run unlike any other in NFL history that included six Super Bowl titles, league sources told ESPN.

Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent much of this week meeting periodically and discussing how each side wants to move forward. From sources familiar with those talks, it was said that there was no conflict or disagreement, and in the end, the fruitful talks resulted in a mutual decision that left both sides comfortable and relieved.

Both Belichick and Kraft, as one outsider noted, “took the high road,” which was fitting for an owner-coach tandem that would become one of the greatest and most decorated teams in NFL history.

Belichick, who has one year remaining on his contract, will be allowed to leave the team without the Patriots seeking compensation. He will want to continue coaching and is expected to attract interest from at least some of the seven other NFL teams that have head coaching vacancies, very likely the Atlanta Falcons, league sources said.

The Patriots will now embark on their first head coaching search in a quarter-century. Patriots linebackers coach Jerrod Mayo, who the team signed to a contract extension in the offseason and whom Kraft has identified as an up-and-coming head coaching candidate, would be a prime candidate, if not the leading candidate for the job, sources said. Mayo played for the Patriots from 2008 to 2014 and has been an assistant under Belichick since 2019.

Belichick's departure from New England is expected to come less than 24 hours after his close friend Nick Saban retired from Alabama.

There is a parallel and a similarity in the passing of two football legends – men widely considered the greatest coach in professional history and the greatest coach in the history of college football. Belichick helped lead the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl titles. Saban led Alabama to nine SEC titles and six national championships.

Additionally, Saban succeeded Pete Carroll as Ohio State's secondary coach in 1980; When Belichick was head coach in Cleveland, he worked with Saban from 1991 to 1994; Belichick replaced Carroll as head coach of the Patriots in 2000, decades before the three vacated their longtime jobs this week in a 24-hour period.

The fact that Belichick and Kraft are going their own ways carries an element of sadness, but it's not surprising. Kraft noted how important it is for the Patriots to make the playoffs this season. Instead, they were one of the first teams eliminated on December 10.

Speculation about Belichick's future has run rampant throughout the 2023 season, with one of the team's lowest points coming on November 12 in a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany.

Before that game, speaking last season, the 82-year-old Kraft told NFL Network: “It was really disappointing. I wish things were a lot better, as I know our fan base did. … This is not what “We were expecting it to happen this year.”

Another key factor for Kraft has been the franchise's trajectory since the departure of quarterback Tom Brady as a free agent after the 2019 season. Since losing Brady, which hurt Kraft, the Patriots have posted losing records in three of their four seasons, with their last playoff win being their 13th. -3 over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019 – when Brady was still on the team.

Belichick, 71, leaves New England with 333 career victories (including playoffs), second all-time behind Don Shula's 347 victories. Belichick, George Halas and Curly Lambeau are the only NFL coaches with six championships since the league began postseason play in 1933. .

Belichick's 24-year tenure was the fifth-longest of any head coach with a single team. He will complete his 49th consecutive NFL season in 2023, the most consecutive coaching seasons in league history.

He's now looking forward to spending his 50th season with another NFL franchise.

Belichick's resume also includes these marks that are expected to remain for the foreseeable future:

• 17 division titles, the most by a head coach in NFL history, with Shula, Andy Reid and Tom Landry tied for second with 13.

• Nine conference championships, the most by a head coach in the Super Bowl era.

• 12 Super Bowl appearances (including his time as an assistant).

• 21 winning seasons as a coach, trailing only Halas (40), Shula (33), Lambeau (33) and Landry (29).

• One of four undefeated and untied regular season seasons in NFL history (2007). It was the only match on the schedule of 16 matches played from 1978 to 2020.

The Patriots have scheduled a press conference with Belichick and Kraft for noon ET on Thursday, and it will mark the end of a great era in Patriots and football history.

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