Bill Belichick has earned the right to call it a career when he decides it’s right for him. That’s the latitude you garner after guiding a franchise to six Super Bowl victories.
Belichick has decided that 2021 will not be his final season with the Patriots, and, again, that’s his prerogative. But it’s fair to ask if him sticking around ultimately is not in the best interest of the organization.
That’s not to say the Patriots should fire Belichick. Robert Kraft is the owner, though, and would be well within his rights to gently nudge Belichick and suggest it might be time for the Patriots to move in a different direction.
It was clear Saturday night, pretty much within the first few minutes of the drubbing the Patriots took from the Buffalo Bills, that they’re more than just one piece away from being a legitimate championship contender. They need added help at the skill positions, improved play at cornerback and better run-stoppers. Getting the team back to that level might be a years-long process, which is fine and not out of the ordinary.
But Belichick, serving as both the general manager and head coach, is being allowed to make franchise-altering decisions. That’s why Tom Brady plays in Tampa Bay right now. If Belichick’s intent is to prove that he can win without Brady, then he could make more decisions that impact the franchise long-term, perhaps well after he’s gone.
The reality is this: Belichick can stay as long as he wants. But the longer he stays, the higher the likelihood is that he simply might not be able to win without Brady, which does nothing but tarnish his legacy. Sure, Belichick would scoff at the notion that he cares at all about his legacy, but he’s human. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to think about that on some level. This isn’t a Brady vs. Belichick take, either. They both needed each other to win Super Bowls with the Patriots. But it might be a few more years until the Patriots are back at a Super Bowl-contending level.
Belichick just got pantsed by Sean McDermott. His Patriots just went 2-3 in the regular season against playoff teams. The 69-year-old still is a fantastic coach, but his ability to coach circles around his counterparts seems to be diminishing. Maybe that’s a matter of the talent on the field, or it could be game-planning. Either way, Belichick heads up both of those things.
Throwing money at free agents might work, but Belichick’s checkered history in the draft is something that has bitten the Patriots in the caboose, and there’s reason to be skeptical of letting him continue to run that side of things when it could sink New England for years.
It’s tough to look at the shocking availability of Brian Flores and not think that, in a vacuum, he makes a whole lot of sense for the Patriots right now. He helped get the Miami Dolphins back to some level of relevancy, and is so respected in New England that Patriots players were going to bat for him when he was fired in Miami. Flores’ biggest crime apparently was his trepidation about Tua Tagovailoa, which most would agree is justified.
Josh McDaniels is there waiting, sure. But he hasn’t exactly come off great in the post-Brady era either, and his first experience as a head coach was a disaster. Flores makes more sense than him as the next coach of the Patriots, all things being equal.
If the Patriots ever were to make a change, it’s probably now. They have a good idea of where they are as an organization, especially with the bumpy and unusual 2020 campaign now well in the past. They are a team that should be in the playoffs going forward, but a successful season for them at this juncture would be getting one playoff win.
The franchise quarterback is in place, and now it’s a matter of handling things on the margins. The Patriots aren’t in a rebuild, but it’s clear they are still a little ways off from reaching the ultimate goal. If Belichick wants to stay for that, then good for him. However, Kraft and the like reasonably should wonder if that ultimately is the best call for the organization.