Belichick deflects questions about his future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2023

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to discuss his future on Wednesday amid a report that owner Robert Kraft had already decided to fire the six-time Super Bowl champion after the season.

Asked repeatedly whether he would be back, or wanted to be back, or whether he’d discussed 2024 with Kraft, Belichick said he was only focused on Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

“I’m getting ready for Kansas City,” Belichick said. “That’s what I’m doing.”

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NBC Sports Boston reported on Tuesday night that Kraft came out of the Patriots’ 10-6 loss to Indianapolis in Germany on Nov. 12 determined to end things with the coach that — along with quarterback Tom Brady — led the franchise to six NFL championships and 17 AFC East titles in a 19-year span.

“A decision was made,” the station reported. “They were going to play out the string, and at the end of the year there would be a parting of the ways.”

The Patriots did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Belichick’s six Super Bowl titles — he won two more as a New York Giants assistant — are the most in history. He is second in career coaching victories, needing 16 more to pass longtime Miami Dolphins mentor Don Shula.

But the Patriots (3-10) are on their way to their third losing season in the past four years. They have not won a playoff game since Brady defected to Tampa Bay in 2020. After last season’s third-place finish, Kraft sent a letter to season ticket-holders vowing to improve.

“We can assure you that no one in our organization is satisfied with the results from this past season,” he wrote. “In the weeks ahead, we will be making critical evaluations of all elements of our football operation as we strive to improve and return to the playoffs next year.”

But this year’s team lost five straight games, including 10-6, 10-7 and 6-0 losses in consecutive weeks; despite beating the Steelers last Thursday, the Patriots were mathematically eliminated from the playoff race on Sunday. Belichick, 71, is reportedly under contract for one more year.

Players said on Wednesday that they haven’t seen a change in their coach’s attitude.

“We don’t pay attention to the outside noise,” linebacker Jahlani Tavai said. “You guys are telling me there’s so much stuff going on. That man hasn’t changed the way he approaches every day. He comes in every day and makes sure we’re on top of our game.”