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Reporters floating speculation of Kraft, Belichick "mutually" parting ways after this season

Belichick "running on fumes" after Patriots land in Germany
Belichick "running on fumes" after Patriots land in Germany 02:23

BOSTON -- The Patriots flew out to Germany with a 2-7 record. Whether they return at 3-7 or 2-8 won't really change much in terms of the scope of their season.

As such, just about everyone in the football world wonders what this means for the present and future of the New England Patriots.

While owner Robert Kraft would never outright announce an exit strategy with his head coach, and while Bill Belichick would naturally decline to answer any question about his job status, some speculation -- potentially informed speculation -- is starting to seep out.

The most notable comes from former New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers, who's written a book on Tom Brady and another about the 1986 New York Giants. Myers shared some interesting thoughts on how Kraft navigates the near future with Belichick

"I don't think there is any way Patriots owner Robert Kraft just flat-out fires him. By firing him, Kraft would give up his right to compensation if Belichick takes another job," Myers said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. "That's why if they part ways, Kraft will give Belichick the opportunity to find a new job and then he will work out a trade. Kraft is a businessman and Belichick is one of his most valuable assets. Billionaires don't give away valuable assets."

Myers indicated that Belichick will want to break Don Shula's wins record, even if his time in New England comes to an end. Thus, Kraft will be looking to receive something in compensation for Belichick, the same way he gave up a first-round pick to acquire Belichick way back in 2000.

Myers added that he believes the love between Kraft and Belichick is "long gone."

"Kraft backed Belichick wanting to move on from Brady, most likely against his better judgment. Kraft loved Belichick 23 years ago and backed him in every way because he won him six Super Bowls and turned his less than $200 million investment into a $7 billion monster. But the love is long gone from the relationship," Myers said. "I think they will announce after the season they have mutually agreed to each move on. If that happens, Belichick will, in effect, be franchised tagged with compensation required."

Elsewhere, The Athletic's Dianna Russini checked in on the status of Belichick. While she likewise didn't offer hard reporting on the matter, she did relay what some people "who have spent time around the Patriots organization and understand the dynamics between team owner Robert Kraft and Belichick" have said. 

"I don't expect anything to be determined with so much season remaining," Russini wrote. "But if people I talk to had to bet, their money is on a mutual parting of the ways at the end of the season."

Clearly, some mechanisms have begun behind the scenes this season, with someone leaking to Ian Rapoport that Belichick signed a contract extension this past offseason. Whether that was Belichick announcing his job security or Kraft letting the league know that arguably the best coach in NFL history won't be available for free? We don't know. But some wheels have begun spinning in some way in the process.

And on Sunday morning, Rapoport himself chimed in, echoing the sentiment that Kraft won't fire Belichick during the season but would want compensation if Belichick were to coach somewhere else next year.

"If Belichick is going to somehow, some way coach elsewhere next year, the Patriots have him under contract. They would at least want some sort of compensation to make this happen," Rapoport said on NFL Network. "And if you are going to fire him, what does that actually do? Does it give you a jump on a process when you may have his successor already in the building in Jerod Mayo? A lot of reasons why it would not make sense to move on from Bill Belichick, at least during the season. We'll see if it ends up happening after."

Rapoport also clarified that the "lucrative, multi-year" contract extension for Belichick only runs through the 2024 season.

Kraft has publicly stated that he's been "bothered" by the Patriots' lack of playoff victory since Super Bowl LIII in February 2019, the last time New England was a true contender. That feeling from the owner hasn't led to any major changes, even as the Patriots went 25-25 from 2020-22 and had no succession plan after nudging Tom Brady out the door after the 2019 season.

But this season -- which seemingly had some owner-initiated changes, like the hiring of Bill O'Brien, the retention of Jerod Mayo, and perhaps some more power doled out to the personnel department at draft time -- represents a new low, one the organization hasn't seen since Belichick first took over in 2000.

Back then, Belichick was establishing his program in New England. This year, the program appears to have run its course. 

UPDATE: The Patriots lost, 10-6, on Sunday in Germany, dropping the Patriots to 2-8 on the season.

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