Before this season it seemed like nothing could ever get Bill Belichick out of New England other than retirement. Now the future is far less certain thanks to a catastrophic 2023 season that can still, improbably, get a lot worse. The Patriots are 2-10. They are bad in every conceivable manner. There’s been some poor injury luck but Belichick has completely failed to coach this team up and make it greater than the sum of its parts, which has long been his specialty. The fans are not used to this and thus the noise surrounding Belichick’s status for 2024 has been loud. More importantly, owner Robert Kraft is not used to this, and no matter what the profession is there is no quicker way to ensure change than to piss off the rich guy.
That’s why Jeff Howe of The Athletic, formerly a Patriots beat writer and now a national NFL reporter, published an article today detailing what would happen if New England traded Belichick:
As the Patriots’ losses mount throughout their most disappointing season in decades, it feels increasingly likely Belichick’s historic run with the organization could be coming to an end. But what if the sides find an amenable way to split by working out a trade?
Three high-ranking executives from rival teams who were polled by The Athletic believed the 71-year-old could be worth as much as a first-round draft pick. And for the Patriots, who are well on the way to securing their own top-five pick, such a return could do wonders to jump-start the franchise’s post-Belichick era.
Any possibility of the extremely rare coach trade involving Belichick hinges on so many factors that we can’t call it even remotely likely. It’s not like with players where the GM makes a move and bags get packed. It requires cooperation from all parties. Belichick would have to sign off on whatever team would trade for him. The Patriots would have to agree to even do it in the first place, which is still no guarantee. Kraft may decide to move on from Belichick but “do right” by him and just fire him so he can go job hunt on his own. There are a lot of moving parts.
It would, however, be somewhat Belichickian of the Pats to wring every last drop of value out of the 71-year-old coach before sending him out of town. If they did go that route, which teams would be interested in parting with a high draft pick for Belichick’s services?
The most obvious potential destination, because they’ve already been connected to Belichick via a Mike Florio theory. It wasn’t reporting but the logic behind it lines up. There’s no shot Ron Rivera is coaching next year, there’s a new ownership group that may be inspired to make a splash, and they’re basically building from the ground-up given they have only two or three players you’d consider long-term starters (and quarterback is not one of them, yet). On Belichick’s end, it may appeal to him to be working with a blank slate franchise and as a football historian he would likely appreciate the opportunity to return a once-great Washington franchise to respectability after years in the dirt.
If Belichick’s sole goal is to win as many games as fast as possible so he can break Don Shula’s wins record and retire, this isn’t the place to do it. But if he wants to coach for another five years, the fit makes sense for both sides.
The Panthers have also been linked to Belichick via a Ben Volin report in the Boston Globe, for many of the same reasons as the Commanders. They’ll be looking for a new head coach this offseason and owner David Tepper is not afraid to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. The Panthers’ situation is marginally more appealing than Washington’s because they have Bryce Young, the 2023 No. 1 overall pick. Obviously Young has been outshined by the guy picked after him down in Houston but he’s still got a tremendous pedigree and oodles of talent to work with. Belichick would again be working with a blank slate of a franchise attempting to return to relevance and could institute his program wholesale.
The Panthers do not own their first-round pick this year after trading up for Young, so that could be an issue. And Tepper is proving to be quite a meddlesome owner, which Belichick surely would not appreciate after many years of working for Kraft and his preference to stay away from football operations. Even with all that it’s hard to rule out the possibility because the team’s recent track record of decision-making suggests trading a pick for a coach as an attempted shortcut to contention is exactly what they would do.
There’s been nothing connecting Chicago to Belichick but it makes sense for numerous reasons. Even if they’ve improved in recent weeks it seems quite unlikely Matt Eberflus will make it to next season. The lows have been too low and the highs not high enough to justify keeping him. After a string of shaky hires it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Bears to look at Belichick and see as close to a sure thing as you’ll find when hunting for a new head coach. They wouldn’t give up a top-10 pick for him, of course; they’re currently on track to have two between their own pick and the Panthers’ pick. But a high second rounder could probably get the job done.
On Belichick’s end there isn’t really a downside. Passing Shula while working for arguably the NFL’s most historic franchise is what Belichick’s dreams are made of. There are many different directions he could take the team this offseason, ranging from building around Justin Fields to picking one of the elite QB prospects in this year’s draft to signing a veteran quarterback and using those picks on cornerstone players. If the Bears want to make this happen then it feels like all parties would be happy to engage.