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Sunday's game vs. Jets could be Bill Belichick's last as Patriots head coach

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For the first time since he began a storied tenure that led to one of sport's greatest dynasties, Bill Belichick's future is unknown.

The Patriots head coach, who has lost more games this season than he has in any other in his coaching career for an organization that has not been used to losing, could be coaching his final game for New England on Sunday against the New York Jets.

Belichick's future is the NFL's most widely speculated upon drama.

Belichick and team owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft will meet when the season is over, and while league-wide conversations center around the likelihood that Belichick will no longer be the coach in New England, none of those who will be in the room have even acknowledged the possibility. What we know is there will be a conversation between the three.

Belichick has proceeded like business as usual, working the same on present and future tasks as he would otherwise. While Robert Kraft has given a few interviews this season, none have provided insight into his pending coaching decision. Belichick is under contract through at least 2024 after signing a new deal prior to the season.

The options for what could come out of the meeting are many.

It doesn't seem, based on conversations with a variety of sources, that the man who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl rings and is considered the greatest coach in league history, will be outright fired. Too much accomplished, too deep of a history, too much pride in the relationship for such a result to occur.

If that were to happen, it would mean Kraft declined to offer Tom Brady a contract he would accept leading to Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2020 offseason and then fired Belichick four years later.

Belichick, who is said to want to keep coaching, could enter the meeting with a plan to fix the team and passionately explain why he is the one to do it. That might include altering the personnel department and hiring a true general manager. David Ziegler, the former Raiders GM and Jon Robinson, the former Titans GM, would be two options who have ties to the Patriots if that's the direction it heads. Such a move also would allow Belichick to focus solely on coaching.

There also could be a mutual parting of ways, in which Belichick and the Kraft decide the marriage can no longer last. That would eliminate the possibility of the Patriots receiving potential trade compensation for Belichick, but would allow the future Hall of Fame coach to seek other opportunities in a clean break. If that's the case, current assistant coach Jerod Mayo would be considered a strong candidate to succeed Belichick.

If Belichick was an available and free coaching candidate, he would be expected to draw significant interest in the coaching world.

The Commanders are not likely to pursue Belichick if they move on from head coach Ron Rivera, and the Chargers and Raiders are considered less likely options. The Panthers, however, had some interest during their head-coaching search when they eventually hired Frank Reich, sources say, and they might inquire again. There is also the possibility that a team with a head-coaching position not yet open could have interest in Belichick.

Belichick was asked on Friday what it's meant to him to be the Patriots coach.

"I've always appreciated the opportunity," Belichick said, "and I'm just looking forward to Sunday's game against the Jets. Like I said, trying to put our best game out there this year. That's what we're working towards. I'm sure there will be another time to talk about other things, but right now we're just trying to focus on the Jets."

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