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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Post-Belichick Era: Patriots Hit Reset Button After Rise to Elite Status

  • Former NFL also-rans became a dominant force during the Belichick era.
  • Coach’s success defied the salary cap and frequent departures of players and assistant coaches.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft called the departure of head coach Bill Belichick the “end of an era” for the team and its fans. That is a massive understatement in more ways than one.

Not only are the Patriots losing their six-time Super Bowl-winning coach, but his departure also signals the fundamental reset of an organization that used the success Belichick created and led to become one of the NFL’s most prominent and valuable franchises.

During Belichick’s 24-year run, the Patriots’ franchise value rose from $464 million, 10th-best in the NFL, to $7 billion, second behind the Dallas Cowboys, in the process enjoying a globally elite status reserved for the likes of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. Kraft, in turn, has become one of the NFL’s foremost power brokers, his influence burnished by the on-field success Belichick led. 

The year before Belichick’s arrival in 2000, the Patriots nearly relocated to Hartford, Conn. But that deal fell apart, and the Patriots ultimately built Gillette Stadium—now widely seen as one of the NFL’s leading and most unique facilities—as a means to solidify its stature in New England.

Belichick was also able to maintain his success while facing salary-cap constraints and steadily losing top coaching assistants and front-office personnel to bigger jobs elsewhere. Under Belichick, regularly parting ways with popular players in the name of better and more value-oriented roster construction became a fundamental part of the Patriots’ brand.

“The fact [this was] done in the salary-cap and free-agency era makes it even more extraordinary,” Kraft said of Belichick’s tenure.

Now, the Patriots are once again a more ordinary franchise, as the team just posted its first last-place division finish since 2000, Belichick’s first year with the team. And with both Belichick and iconic quarterback Tom Brady gone, the Patriots are truly hitting the reset button. The Patriots hold the third pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, a prospect that perhaps presents an opportunity to set a new coach-quarterback pairing along the lines of Belichick-Brady.

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