If any other coach took a 2-7 record to a European game followed by a bye week, everyone would be wondering whether a loss would result in a firing. It’s entirely fair, then, to pose that question regarding Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Before last Sunday’s loss by the Patriots to the Commanders, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe opened the window to the possibility of Belichick being fired during the season if the Pats lose to Washington and Indianapolis. This would presumably give Jerod Mayo a seven-game opportunity to audition for the permanent job.
A belief has emerged in recent years that Mayo will be the successor to Belichick. Some believe Mayo has been promised the job. That outcome potentially assumes a passing of the torch, not a crash-and-burn exit. At this point, owner Robert Kraft might feel compelled to press the reset button and start over completely, ridding the franchise of all things Bill.
Still, this is the perfect time for a struggling team to make an in-season change. The Patriots have their bye after the game in Germany. And a loss to the Colts, a franchise the Patriots still blame (along with the Ravens) for #Deflategate, would give Kraft even more to think about on the flight home from Frankfurt.
Firing Belichick during the season eliminates one important postseason option for Kraft. If the Patriots terminate Belichick’s employment, Belichick can be traded (as a practical matter) to another team in January. Several teams could be interested, despite Belichick’s recent struggles. Rumors have persisted about the Commanders wanting to hire him. The Buccaneers are a possibility, too. Again, it only takes one owner to run the numbers as to the potential boost in relevance and revenue from hiring one of the greatest coaches in sports history.
Kraft also would avoid responsibility for a buyout to Belichick. Several weeks ago, someone wanted it to be known that Belichick had signed a “lucrative” (as if NFL coaches get minimum wage) contract in the offseason, a possible message to the league at large that Belichick will finish the season, and perhaps return for 2024.
At this point, few think he’ll be back next year. If Kraft already knows that, the only sensible reason for delaying the inevitable comes from holding out hope that someone else will want to give the Patriots a draft pick or two for a coach who otherwise would have been nudged out the door. And, before Kraft would ever fire Belichick, Kraft would surely know the answer to that question.