It’s been an uncharacteristic Patriots season for reasons more than one.

In addition to struggles the franchise hasn’t experienced in three decades, New England also has been the subject of some news atypical for Foxboro, Mass. Most notably, a late-October report about a new deal for head coach Bill Belichick, whose contract virtually was never talked about across his first 23 seasons with the Patriots.

As such, one can assume the report reached the masses because someone wanted it out there. A recent report from The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin suggested the leak came from Belichick, who apparently wanted to send a message to his superiors.

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“Taken at its face, the report indicated that Belichick will be back with the Patriots next year,” Volin wrote. “But two people close to the team believe the report was really Belichick sending a message to Robert and Jonathan Kraft: ‘Don’t forget that I signed a multiyear contract. If you fire me, I have a big, fat buyout coming, and I intend to collect every penny.'”

There seemingly is no guarantee Belichick returns to the Patriots sideline next season, and ownership reportedly has a “home run pick” in mind as a potential replacement for the legendary head coach. There’s also the possibility of the Patriots swinging a trade involving Belichick, although that scenario doesn’t feel likely.

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But no matter when and how the Patriots and Belichick separate, one can assume the organization will take of the future Pro Football Hall of Famer and handle the situation with class. It would be the bare minimum for a franchise icon who helped the team experience so much success.

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images