At some point, the New England Patriots will stop looking back on past triumphs, of which they have compiled many since the turn of the millennium. The organization and fanbase, slumping since 2020, will only be complacent for so long, and as they seek a way forward, it is becoming increasingly unclear how head coach Bill Belichick plays into that future.

It is generally accepted after three subpar years that the Patriots dynasty ended when Tom Brady left after the 2019 season. Belichick and Brady ran the league together, winning six Super Bowls. But while the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback went to the Buccaneers and won another title in the 2020 season, the future Hall-of-Fame head coach has not won another division title.

The Patriots did make it to the Wild Card game in 2021 but lost to the Bills in a crushing 47-17 loss. In 2022, they went 8-9 and finished third in the division. Belichick has found it impossible to replace Brady or even find a reasonable replacement. Mac Jones regressed significantly after an encouraging rookie season and backup Bailey Zappe has been little more than a stopgap.

Anyone who claims that Belichick will be unceremoniously fired by owner Robert Kraft are simply engaging in wishful thinking, likely because the Patriots beat up on their favorite teams for more than 20 years. If the team wants him to leave, Belichick could very easily ‘decide’ to retire at the age of 71 and go off into the sunset as the greatest head coach in NFL history. Until that day comes, however, the Patriots leader has to find a way to build something that might last beyond his final day at the helm.


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Heading into the 2023 season, most projections place New England last in the AFC East. The Bills remain serious playoff contenders, the Jets are expected to improve dramatically with Aaron Rodgers in town and the Dolphins should continue to take shape if Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy. The Patriots are the division’s forgotten team, far removed from their dominant reputation of yesteryear.

While he chases Don Shula’s record of 328 wins (he’s still 30 wins away at 298), Belichick will always be remembered as a godsend for the Patriots, a coach who turned the franchise from a perennial also-ran to a powerhouse. But in the immediate future, he could be seen as overstaying his welcome without improvement.

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