By Jill Martin and Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — Legendary head coach Bill Belichick confirmed on Thursday that he is leaving the New England Patriots after 24 seasons, during which the franchise won six Super Bowl titles.
Standing next to Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a media conference, Belichick said the two of them had “mutually agreed” to part ways when they met following the conclusion of the 2023 season.
Kraft stressed that he and Belichick had split “amicably.”
“For me this is a day of gratitude and celebration,” said Belichick, who thanked for the Patriots’ organization for the support it had provided him over his stint with the team.
The departure brings to an end one of the greatest head coaching runs in NFL history, during which Belichick changed the fortunes of the Patriots organization.
Paired with era-defining quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick transformed the Patriots into one of the league’s juggernauts, almost consistently making deep playoff runs and contending for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, proving the benchmark for others.
“I’m incredibly grateful to have played for the best coach in the history of the NFL,” Brady said Thursday on Instagram.
But following Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, the team has struggled in the regular season and playoffs, with New England finishing with a 4-13 record this past season.
Belichick leaves the team with a 266-120 regular-season record and going 30-12 in the playoffs, according to NFL.com.
“Coach Belichick will forever be celebrated as a legendary sports icon here in New England and I believe go in as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on the first ballot. Why? Because he is the greatest coach of all times, which makes this decision to part ways so hard,” said Kraft at Thursday’s media conference.
After his earlier appearance alongside Belichick, Kraft said during a separate news conference the team wants to properly honor the long-time head coach when he retires.
Asked about Belichick’s replacement, Kraft said he was looking for someone to lead the Patriots back to the playoffs.
“I am very upset when we don’t win games,” he said.
The greatest ever?
Belichick’s journey from learning under his father at the Naval Academy football team and his days as an assistant coach around the league is one of legend now.
His time as defensive coordinator learning under head coach Bill Parcells during their time together with the New York Giants proved a turning point for the NFL as a whole, with Parcells acting as a mentor for a young Belichick as they won two Super Bowl titles. The pair’s relationship was later immortalized as “The Two Bills” in an ESPN “30 for 30” special released in 2018.
Belichick earned his first head coaching job as a 38-year-old with the Cleveland Browns before being let go in the franchise’s acrimonious move to Baltimore.
A reunion with Parcells followed at the New York Jets before he joined the Patriots as head coach after just one day as the Jets’ head coach following one of the most memorable press conferences in NFL history.
Belichick’s time with the Pats couldn’t have started any better as he chose Brady in his first draft with New England, choosing the unheralded prospect with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan.
“I could never have been the player I was without you Coach Belichick. I am forever grateful. And I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next,” Brady said.
“He was a great leader for the organization, and for all of the players who played for him,” Brady wrote. “He worked every day to help us achieve the ultimate goal, in the ultimate team sport. And, although we were successful, some of the greatest lessons I learned were in the moments where we faced the most challenging adversities.”
And over the next 20 years, they transformed the Patriots into a juggernaut, with Belichick and Brady’s ruthlessness keeping New England on top.
Belichick said in his departure press conference that when he was hired by Kraft, the pair had a “vision of building a winner, building a championship football team” which has exceeded his wildest dreams and expectations.
Belichick is the only head coach in NFL history to win six Super Bowl titles. He ranks second all-time with 333 total victories as a head coach. His 31 career playoff wins are the most all-time among head coaches.
But more than that, his fingerprints are all over the league.
Current NFL head coach Brian Daboll has connections to Belichick, while other familiar faces around the sport such as Mike Vrabel, Matt Patricia, Brian Flores, Joe Judge, Josh McDaniels, Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini can all trace their lineage back to him.
The pinnacle of the Belichick-Brady combination manifested in 2007 when the Patriots made history by becoming the first team to finish the regular season with an undefeated 16-0 record.
With Brady at the helm – he would win MVP that season – and superstar wide receiver Randy Moss on the outside, the team’s offense was almost unstoppable, finishing the season with an NFL-best 36.8 points per game. And paired with a stout defense, New England was a juggernaut.
After blitzing through the playoffs, the Patriots faced the New York Giants in the Super Bowl where, in one of the biggest shocks in NFL history, New England was defeated 17-14 and David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch” being written into folklore.
The dramatic upset wouldn’t stop the Patriots juggernaut, however. Belichick’s ability to transform undervalued pieces into stars and simultaneously dispose of players at exactly the moment they started to hit the downward slope of their careers became legendary and vital in his teams consistently being Super Bowl contenders.
His long tenure also included a number of investigations, from videotaping the hand signals of the opposing team during a game in 2007 in what became known as Spygate to using under-inflated balls in a 2015 AFC Championship game in the Deflategate scandal. The incidents cost Belichick and the team hefty fines and numerous draft picks.
He had consistently faced questions about whether he saw himself as the Patriots’ head coach going forward and had always made sure to respond in his trademark, deadpan manner.
The 71-year-old said on Monday that it was “way too early” to make any decision on his future as the team’s head coach after rumors swirled about whether his time in New England could be drawing to a close.
He also said on Monday that he’d meet with owner Robert Kraft in the coming days to discuss the team’s direction.
Belichick struggled to hold back his emotions when he gave thanks to Patriots fans on Thursday.
“There are so many memories of the fans,” he said. “The send-offs, the parades, the Sundays. Whatever the situations are, the letters of support … So appreciative of the fans for all the support they’ve given me, my family, and this football team.
“So many fond memories and thoughts that I think about the Patriots and I’ll always be a Patriot. I’ll look forward to coming back here but at this time, we are going to move on … I’ll always be very appreciative of the opportunity here, the support here, and Robert [for] what you’ve done for me.”
Belichick also had some fun acknowledging the reporters who have covered the Patriots over the past 24 seasons.
“I don’t know if anyone has gotten more coverage than I have or we have the past 24 years … You’re our voice to the fans,” he said. “Even though we don’t always see eye to eye all the time – most of the time but not all the time. I do respect what you do.”
Belichick’s departure from the Patriots comes a day after Saban – who spent four seasons as Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Browns – announced his retirement as Alabama football coach.
“What Bill has done will never be repeated. It’ll be difficult to see him in a cutoff hoodie on another sideline. I wish him success except when he’s coaching against our beloved Patriots,” Kraft said.
From his surly demeanor to the six titles he brought to Massachusetts, Belichick leaves the Patriots as arguably the greatest NFL head coach of all time.
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This story has been updated with additional information.