If there's one thing history have taught us, it's that men who rule empires cannot afford to demonstrate the slightest weakness. Showing your vulnerability on The Bachelorette might get you a rose and a hand stuff in the Fantasy Suite, but for rulers, it's a death knell. Cough up a little blood, and not only will your enemies come after you, but so will your loyal subjects. It happened to Caesar. It happened to Phillip II of Macedon. It happened to Captain Cook when the Hawaiians who regarded him as a demigod realized he and his men were mortal. It happened to Vito Corleone. It happened to Michael Scott when Dwight Shrute tried to take control of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. And now it's happening to the Philosopher King who built the Patriots Dynasty.
Some head coaches in some situations might get cut some slack after going 8-9 given that his team was a red zone fumble in Cincinnati and the worst play in NFL history from going 10-7 and making the playoffs. But having four years pass without a postseason win is an unpardonable sin for a conqueror. And so hands are reaching under tunics for dagger handles.
First came Devin McCourty, who is now free to speak his mind and question his old coach's decisions:
Next, he gave this answer at the league meetings:
Creating this "Et tu, Bruschi?" moment:
And then, the boss spoke at the meetings. Mr. Kraft, the Palpatine to Belichick's Vader, expressed his displeasure about the last four years. While seeming to suggest that Jerod Mayo might be taking over at some point, sooner if not later:
And now, the inevitable. Sources within the organization invoking the Dreaded Hot Seat:
Source - Kraft made it clear that Belichick does not have a lifetime appointment.
“In the end, this is a business,” Kraft said. “You either execute and win, or you don’t. That’s where we’re at.”
It’s not just those of us on the outside who believe Belichick is on the hot seat. Within the last month, two confidants of Belichick independently expressed concern Kraft could fire Belichick after the 2023 season. These are former Patriots who worked for the team within the last five years, and still speak with the coach often. They are worried their mentor might not get to go out on his own terms.
Realistically, it appears Belichick will get two years to get the 19 wins to surpass Shula. But only if 2023 goes well — at least nine wins. A playoff appearance may be necessary, too. …
You could see the agony on Kraft’s face when a reporter asked him about the Patriots missing the playoffs in two of the last three years.
“Two out of the last three seasons,” Kraft repeated, trailing off. …
“I think we’ve made some moves this year that personally I’m comfortable with,” Kraft said. “And I still believe in Bill.”
Still. For now. But warning shots have been sent. Another disappointing season won’t suffice.
If you think I'm going to shy away from this Hot Seat talk, you've got another thing coming. The Belichick Epoch has never been powered by kind words, happy thoughts, and rainbow unicorn farts. It's fueled by accountability. Of admitting errors (OC Matt Patricia) and correcting them so they're not repeated. So we embrace this around here.
Besides, if you think this is the first time we've heard it, you're either 10 years old or have goldfish memory. There were calls - demands, really - for Mr. Kraft to fire Belichick as soon as Spygate happened in 2007. And again with Deflategate. There were cries of indignant hysteria that he shouldn't have been allowed to coach the Super Bowl against Seattle. And that was 10 years removed from the team's last championship, not four.
The Krafts demand postseason success. You know who else does? Patriots fans. And you know who else? Belichick. It's not possible to be tougher on him than he is. He's not thinking about catching Don Shula or counting his rings. I take a back seat to no one when it comes to Tedy Bruschi fandom. But that "25 years" comment wasn't about living in the past. It was a direct answer to the question of why we should be confident of his team going forward. And it's the correct one.
Bottom-lining this situation: Bring it on. Bring it all on. Turn the seat warmer all the way up. Heat is how steel is forged into the finest weapons. Talk all you want about the GOAT coaching for his job, so he can go back to harvesting souls like all the other times. And for the people saying he's finished and it's time to put somebody else in charge, here's what Phillip II's son had to say when the men in his command tried to mutiny. No better words have ever been spoken by mortal man: