Many Patriots fans are in a hurry to run Bill Belichick out of town. Some wanted the six-time Super Bowl winner to be fired weeks ago.

And maybe that’s fair. New England, arguably the worst team in the NFL, appears in need of a full reset.

But fans shouldn’t be in such a rush to jettison everything Belichick stands for and represents as an NFL head coach. In fact, these next few weeks are among the most important in Belichick’s illustrious tenure with the Patriots.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of potentially landing a top-three draft pick. There’s a chance of drafting an overnight-fix quarterback; just ask the Houston Texans. However, unless you get lucky in a trade, an ascent up the draft board coincides with a plummet down the standings. And some franchises — the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions come to mind — look up one day and realize they’ve been doing the same miserable dance for decades.

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And so, as a third sub-.500 season in four years nears its merciful end, the Patriots can’t allow losing to become the norm. Winning is contagious, but so is losing — and the Krafts don’t possess some top-secret vaccine. Belichick, in the face of his likely departure, must work like hell to maintain a culture of winning and a standard of excellence so that the person who replaces him has a fighting chance.

“It’s everything,” special teamer Matthew Slater told this week. “What happens in a place culturally is almost as important as what happens on the football field, because I think one leads to another. So, for us, just the commitment to the process, the respect for the game, the commitment to the game — it’s very important that we maintain that.

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“This game owes nobody anything. And when you start treating it like it does, or like opportunities are just gonna come down the road, you really are in a bad place. I think it’s important for us all to fight to preserve that. I know the leaders on this team are doing that, and there are a lot of guys who aren’t captains who are doing that. It’s very important.”

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Slater now has seen both sides of the coin.

Maintaining the “Patriot Way,” as increasingly dubious as it might seem, wasn’t easy when deep playoff runs felt automatic in New England. Nor is it easy now to hold onto it — or get it back — as it slips away.

But which is more difficult?

“That’s a great, great question,” Slater said. “I think they’re both hard for different reasons. When you’re on top, you certainly can become complacent. And I think you have to fight that, that human nature. But I also think it’s easier to kind of get along and go along when things are going well. … That’s just how we’re wired.

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“But certainly, when you’re faced with a ton of adversity, it’s a little bit harder, for different reasons, to hold things together. You have to fight your desire to look for excuses, or to place blame, or to not commit yourself to the process because you’re not getting the results that you want.”

There’s no denying that some of Belichick’s methods of running a franchise haven’t aged well. And you could argue his approach to coaching, with heavy emphases on defense and special teams, no longer works in today’s NFL.

Plus, as time goes on, it becomes clear that Tom Brady was the main engine of the Patriots dynasty.

But to suggest that Belichick’s philosophies weren’t key to winning six titles is to rewrite history. Without Belichick’s cutthroat roster management and meritocratic distribution of playing time, there wouldn’t be a winning culture to save.

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Sure, his public stubbornness might be off-putting when the franchise is 27-36 post-Brady. But his steadfast commitment to his way also might prevent the Patriots from taking on habits that plunge other franchises into the depths of true irrelevance.

“It’s huge,” Slater said of Belichick’s presence. “One thing in life that I believe in is consistency. And I think consistency over time will always beat out spontaneity and inconsistency over time. For us, we’ve been so fortunate to have stability in this organization.”

Slater added: “Look, we’ve had a lot of success. And this is obviously not the way anybody wants this to be going. But to have a figure that you can look to, and know what you’re gonna get each and every day regardless of what’s going on, means a great deal to a lot of us in this locker room.”

The sad reality is that Belichick and his team leaders might be fighting a losing battle.

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Just 10 players remain from the Super Bowl LIII roster, including practice squadder James Ferentz. The majority of players on the current roster haven’t won anything at the NFL level, either in New England or elsewhere. Many of those players are young and haven’t seen the proof of concept in Belichick’s teachings.

But for captains like David Andrews, keeping the Patriots above water is personal.

“I obviously really care about this franchise and this organization,” the veteran center said last week. “Because it’s where I spent my whole career, and obviously has opened a lot of doors. I’ve had a lot of success. It’s mine and my wife’s home here now. So, I’ll forever care about this organization and franchise.

“And I understand the outside (speculation) … but we’re trying to win games no matter what — because you don’t know how many opportunities you’re gonna get. Just the reality of it. I probably won’t be here in 10 years. You try to take advantage of each opportunity you get each Sunday.”

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This isn’t lip service from Andrews. We’re talking about someone who cried last January when asked about the possibility of no longer playing with Slater or Devin McCourty. The Patriots, and their success, mean a lot to him.

“There’s guys that put in a lot of time and effort and sacrificed a lot for this organization,” he said. “You try to do that to honor them, and honor yourself.”

“To have a figure that you can look to … means a great deal to a lot of us in this locker room.”

Matthew Slater on Bill Belichick

The Patriots face uncertain times.

There’s no guarantee the grass will be any greener in a post-Belichick world. For that matter, there’s no guarantee this year’s top quarterback prospects are any better than Mac Jones.

To that end, the Patriots must remain focused on the here and now, and guard against the slippery slope of failure. Because once a franchise starts sliding, it can take years to regain any traction

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images