The Hot Seat Under B. Belichick
BY ERIC ZHAO '25
It’s late May, and you just got a C- on your test…again. With a 68% average, your chances of passing are slim. Just as you lose hope, the teacher announces that there is one final test—one last opportunity to pass. The pressure is almost insurmountable. That’s the kind of pressure New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is under, only magnified tenfold for one of the world’s most valuable sports franchises. Considered one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Belichick helped establish two decades of Patriots domination, with six Super Bowl titles and seventeen division titles. However, even with a résumé like his, the coach has never faced this much pressure during his career as the Patriots’ head coach. Since Tom Brady’s departure, the team’s mediocre performance—exacerbated by drafting failures and losses to emerging NFL teams—has frustrated fans and the Pats’ owner. Unquestionably, the pressure on Belichick is at an all-time high.
During Belichick’s tenure, he has almost exclusively worked with one starting quarterback: Tom Brady. During their time together, the team dominated the league, winning an unprecedented 249 games in eighteen seasons. However, in 2020, Brady left the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After the quarterback’s retirement, Belichick coached the Patriots to their first losing season in twenty years and a blowout first-round playoff exit the following year. Meanwhile, Brady picked up right where he left off, bringing a Super Bowl championship to Tampa Bay and cementing his new team as a championship contender for the next several seasons. Allegedly, Brady and Belichick’s differences led the former to leave the Patriots in the first place; Brady disagreed with the coach’s treatment towards players and the talent on the roster. Belichick hasn’t succeeded without Brady so far, holding a losing record since the quarterback’s departure. The same can’t be said for Brady without Belichick.
Drafting woes have also intensified the pressure on Belichick. The NFL Draft allows teams to select the nation’s best college players to join their team, and Belichick oversees the Patriots draft operations. He has botched a number of the team’s draft selections over the past several seasons, passing up on future NFL stars for other college players that the team fails to develop. In 2019, the Patriots drafted wide receiver N’Keal Harry, but following injuries and inconsistent play, Harry never became the game-breaking receiver the team hoped he would be. Instead, he was traded from the team in 2022. While other teams have shone each year from the draft, the Patriots have continuously missed out on impactful players, being unable to compete with championship contenders. These teams’ emergence has quickly become a thorn in Belichick’s side, encumbering his path to success.
Filled with talented young superstars, several intraconference teams have emerged as championship contenders, such as the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Patriots may have struggled with recent success, these teams have not. The Cincinnati Bengals just finished a season that involved a Super Bowl berth, while the Kansas City Chiefs have had four consecutive conference championship appearances. On the other hand, the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since 2018 nor a division title since 2019. These other teams are fueled by their young superstars, something the Patriots lack. And because of their youth, they could have longevity for at least several seasons, maybe even over a decade.
Moreover, owner Robert Kraft’s frustration with the team is a significant concern for Belichick.
Kraft recently lamented the team’s lack of recent success, commenting that, “More than anything, it bothers me that we haven't been able to win a playoff game in the last three years…I think about that a lot.” He also wasn’t thrilled with the team’s past drafts. Belichick is responsible for much of Kraft’s dissatisfaction, so if Kraft continues to see debacles, Belichick’s job could be at risk.
Finally, for a fanbase used to and spoiled with winning over the past two decades, restlessness is beginning to fester. A mediocre season and another season that ended with one of the most embarrassing losses in team history already has fans pessimistic about the upcoming season. One more season without any meaningful accomplishment could erode the fanbase's faith in the team and create resentment towards the team’s management, namely Belichick.
Belichick and the 2022 Patriots are a team that people expect to see win. But for a team that’s working on its newfound identity and proving that they can still keep up with the big dogs, they will be hard-pressed to win. However, Belichick and his Patriots have to deliver, because everyone is watching even more closely this time. And if they can’t, trouble may be brewing in Foxborough.