6-time Super Bowl champ Bill Belichick is leaving as Patriots coach
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
For the first time in almost 25 years, the New England Patriots will be without head coach Bill Belichick. One of the winningest coaches in pro football history is leaving the team he led to a record six Super Bowl championships. Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft today said they mutually agreed to part ways. Reporter Simon Rios from member station WBUR in Boston is with us now. Hey there.
SIMON RIOS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: It has been a long time since there's been a Patriots team without Coach Belichick. Talk about the legacy that he leaves behind in the New England sports world.
RIOS: He has. He's been around for 24 years, and I'll say he's a big part of the reason so many sports fans across the country hate Boston sports and not just football. But Bill Belichick has won more Super Bowl titles than any other coach in the modern era of football, and he's a handful of games away from the all-time wins record by a coach. Many people call him the GOAT, the greatest of all time. And he gets credit for spotting talent in the sixth-round draft quarterback pick Tom Brady, who's also considered the GOAT at his position. Belichick and Brady went on to win the Super Bowl six times out of nine attempts, so they only lost three times. I should say that his legacy also includes two cheating scandals, investigations that cost him and the Patriots draft picks and more than a million dollars in fines.
SHAPIRO: He's known for being terse. What did he say today?
RIOS: Yeah. So he came out very straight-faced, understated. He thanked the Kraft family, which owns the Patriots, the Patriots staff, the players, the security personnel, the equipment people, even the media, which was a nice touch considering how standoffish he usually is in front of cameras. But I think the most touching moment, perhaps, was when he spoke about the fans. So you can hear his voice quivering just a little bit.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BILL BELICHICK: You know, there's so many memories of the fans - the send-offs, the parades, the Sundays. It's with - just so many fond memories and thoughts that I, you know, think about the Patriots, and I'll always be a Patriot.
RIOS: Always a Patriot. But Belichick said it's time to move on, and he looks forward to the future.
SHAPIRO: And team owner Robert Kraft is going to have to chart that future and rebuild this team without the GOAT. What did he have to say today?
RIOS: Yeah, that will be next - the new head coach and possibly a general manager selection. But Robert Kraft remembered bringing Bill Belichick in as head coach in 2000, and he said they had high expectations at that time. And Kraft said that, you know, not a lot of people shared in those expectations. But now, in hindsight, Kraft says that we've exceeded the expectations, and he called Coach Belichick a legendary sports icon and added that, you know, this is a tough decision to part ways with him but one that was needed.
SHAPIRO: What are you hearing from fans today?
RIOS: Yeah. So if you're a football fan in Boston, it's pretty astounding what this guy did, but it ended poorly. First, when Tom Brady left the team to go win a Super Bowl in Tampa, some people put that on Bill Belichick. And then, this season, they won just four games, which was the worst season in Belichick's career. But let's hear from Walter Otto, a lifelong Pats fan who reversed course.
WALTER OTTO: Yes, I actually just switched over to 49ers this year, so (laughter) I went from one to another. But, yeah, I think after 24 years, you need a whole new setup.
SHAPIRO: Voices of fans there from WBUR reporter Simon Rios. Thank you so much.
RIOS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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