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Bill Belichick, Patriots mutually agree to part ways after 24 seasons

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have mutually agreed to part ways after 24 seasons, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Thursday, per sources.

The team has since announced the news.

"Robert (Kraft) and I, after a series of discussions, have mutually agreed to part ways," Belichick said in a media address on Thursday. "For me, this is a day of gratitude and celebration. I'll start with Robert and his family. So much thanks for the opportunity to be the coach here for 24 years. It's an amazing opportunity, and I received tremendous support. We had a vision of building a winner, building a championship football team here. That's exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations, the amount of success we were able to achieve together through a lot of hard work and the contributions of so many people. Very proud of that, and I will always have those great memories. I'll carry those with me the rest of my life.

"... I will always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here but, at this time, we're going to move on. I look forward and am excited for the future. Always very very appreciative of the opportunity here, the support here and Robert what you've done for me. Thank you."

In 24 seasons in Foxborough, Belichick led the most decorated dynasty in NFL history. Under his leadership, the Patriots won six Super Bowls, tied for most by a franchise in NFL history, with nine Super Bowl appearances. Belichick has more Super Bowl appearances as a head coach than every franchise save one, the Patriots (11).

In the two-dozen campaigns, New England compiled a 266-120 regular-season record and won 17 AFC East titles -- including 11 straight from 2009-2019, the longest streak in NFL history. The 17 division titles are the most ever by any head coach with a single club, five better than the next closest -- Tom Landry (12).

The 71-year-old coach generated 296 total wins with the Patriots, including playoffs, the second-most by any head coach with a single franchise in NFL history behind George Halas with the Bears (324).

"At heart, I will always be a sentimental sports fan, so this is a very emotional day for me," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "Some of my happiest and most memorable moments were celebrated with my family during Bill's tenure here. I recognize that it also is a very emotional day for many of our fans, and most of our fans. As it represents the end of an era, one that hopefully will always be celebrated in this region. The man standing to my left brought the leadership and coaching skills that were needed to make this type of unprecedented success that we have had possible.

"Coach Belichick will forever be celebrated as a legendary sports icon here in New England, and I believe go in as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on the first ballot. Why? Because he is the greatest coach of all time, which makes this decision to part ways so hard. But this is a move that we mutually agreed that is needed at this time. What Bill accomplished with us, in my opinion, will never be replicated. And the fact that it was done in the salary-cap and free-agency era makes it even more extraordinary. I thank Coach Bill for his hard work and dedication. It will be difficult to see him in a cut-off hoodie on the sideline, but I always will continue to wish him continued success except when he's playing our beloved Patriots. I thank you all for coming here today and being part of this celebration."

Belichick is one of seven head coaches to spend 20-plus seasons with a single team, joining George Halas (40), Curly Lambeau (29), Tom Landry (29), Don Shula (26), Steven Owen (24), Chuck Noll (23) -- all in the Hall of Fame.

Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who has been viewed for years as a possible Belichick successor, is seen as the top in-house candidate for New England, Rapoport reports. For Belichick, the Atlanta Falcons' vacant head coaching job may be an option, per Rapoport.

The Patriots found unprecedented postseason success under Belichick, going 30-12 in 18 playoff appearances. The 30 postseason victories are more than any coach in NFL history. The six Super Bowl victories are the most by any single head coach in NFL history.

Considered the greatest coach of the modern era, Belichick's receiving only three NFL Coach of the Year awards underscores a brilliance often taken for granted. Other franchises cycled through peaks and valleys at expedient rates; the Patriots remained among the most revered franchises for more than two decades.

The man who brought The Patriot Way to the NFL -- an approach all others have miserably failed to co-opt -- legendary gruff press conferences and celebrated championships with workmanlike "No Days Off!" exclamations left a lasting imprint not only on New England but the entire NFL during his reign.

Belichick's tenure with the Patriots got off to a bizarre beginning after he spurned the New York Jets by famously writing his resignation on a napkin before an awkward press conference. Eventually, the Jets and Patriots worked out a trade for a first-round pick, and the Belichick era in New England began.

In his first season, the Patriots compiled a 5-11 record in 2000. From there, the franchise skyrocketed to dynastic status.

In Year 2, Belichick made his most famous move, sticking with second-year quarterback Tom Brady, who helped lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. Belichick's scheme against Marshall Faulk and "The Greatest Show On Turf" in Super Bowl XXXVI went down as one of the most masterful defensive plans in NFL history.

Powered by a smothering Belichick defense and Brady's heroics, the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004, the last franchise to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in successive campaigns.

The Patriots morphed several times under Belichick's regime from defensive-focused in the early years to an explosive offense in the Brady-Randy Moss seasons to a squad that won three consecutive AFC Championships (2016-2018) with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The only season New England didn't make the postseason from 2003 to 2019 was 2008 when Brady injured his knee in Week 1. The Patriots still won 11 games that season with Matt Cassel at the helm.

Drama followed the Patriots on and off the field during their decades of dominance, from Spygate to Deflategate. Despite it all, the Pats racked up wins.

Through all the dips and dives of the Belichick era, playoff theater reigned. Highlights included the first upset run to the title, back-to-back Lombardis, a 16-0 regular season record that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, the second Big Blue loss, dramatic championship wins over the Seahawks and Falcons, and the defensive mastery of offensive savant Sean McVay in Super Bowl LIII.

Even after Brady left for Tampa Bay in 2020, Belichick helped get the Patriots back to the postseason in 2021 with rookie Mac Jones under center.

Things, however, bottomed out the past two years for the coach and de facto general manager. Years of questionable drafts and coaching decisions left the Pats vulnerable. The struggles of Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in 2021, combusted a talent-poor offense, and a solid defense couldn't compensate.

Belichick's final season, a 4-13 campaign, marked the worst season in the coach's career -- in New England or Cleveland. Prior to 2023, the Patriots had not lost 12-plus games in a season since 1992 (went 2-14 in that season before they hired HOF Bill Parcells, Belichick's mentor, as head coach in 1993).

New England struggled in every aspect in 2023, ranking in the bottom five in points per game (13.9, tied for last in the NFL) and turnover differential (-11). The Pats D allowed 21.5 points per game, the third worst in the Belichick era.

The Patriots' season ended on Jan. 7 with a 17-3 loss at home to the Jets, and one day later Belichick told reporters that it was too early to discuss his future and that he was "still under contract." Three days later, the most-discussed story in the NFL has a conclusion.

As with most divorces, the end wasn't pretty, but the highs of the Belichick era peaked at the mountaintop and crescendoed far longer than any franchise in NFL history.

History will remember the Super Bowls, the Hall of Fame players, the championship parades, the grumpy pressers, and eloquent 10-minute dissertations about long snapping. History will remember the Belichick era in New England as a dynasty for the ages. A dynasty with which all other dynasties will be compared.

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