When the scoreboard hits triple zeroes on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the final whistle might very well also signal the end of the Bill Belichick era in New England.
A final home game against the New York Jets is a fitting setting for a coach that famously resigned as their head coach by scribbling "I resign as HC of the NYJ" on a napkin before ever coaching a game for the franchise.
The Bill Belichick story in New England is a complicated narrative; one full of counterpoints, caveats, and emphatic disagreements about where credit should be due. The objective truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Belichick has been on the sideline for 296 Patriot wins and led the team to its first Super Bowl title in 2002 before tacking on five more championships after that for good measure. He ranks only 14 games behind Don Shula for the most NFL head coaching wins of all time, and it is hard to envision that Belichick will ride off into the sunset before he adds that next chapter to his place in football lore.
But accolades and past accomplishments aside, the New England Patriots are at a critical juncture. There are uncomfortable truths in New England. Since the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots have lost at least seven games in all four seasons. With Brady, New England only lost seven games once, in Brady's second season. Belichick enjoyed a 249-75 record with Brady under center, while limping to a 85-105 record without the future Hall of Famer.
Beyond his coaching duties, Belichick was the architect of the Patriots dynasty as the team's de facto general manager. But faster paced and offensively dominated game has passed him by, and the struggles of the 2023 Patriots have been a damning testimonial to his archaic approach.
To return to their winning ways, New England will almost assuredly have to part ways with Belichick. An intensive coaching search will follow suit, and the wrong pick could throw the Patriots into the rinse-repeat cycle that many underperforming NFL franchises fall victim to with their head coaching hires. To put out the fire in Foxborough and avoid that dreadful cycle, here are three names that owner Robert Kraft must steer clear of in his search for the next Patriots head coach.
3. Dan Quinn
Patriots fans remain indebted to Dan Quinn for his atrocious clock management at the end of Super Bowl LI, while Quinn was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Although Quinn might earn a few free beers in Boston for his role in New England's 28-3 comeback, Patriots fans should still prefer the team to steer clear of bringing him to Foxborough as Belichick's successor.
Quinn has undeniably done an admirable job with the Dallas Cowboys' defense as their defensive coordinator over the last three seasons. In Dallas, Quinn's defense has ranked as top seven scoring each season, but the Patriots' pressing needs aren't on the defensive side of the ball. New England ranks sixth in yards allowed per game, fifth in opponent yards per play, and is the league's best defensive unit against the run.
If the Patriots go outside of the building, Quinn's archetype isn't a fit. They already have a defensive mind in-house with Jerod Mayo, although Quinn's previous head coaching experience is an advantage. While New England's defense is above-average, the offense is towards the basement in nearly every category. It doesn't make sense for the Patriots to make an external hire with a defensive background.
Furthermore, factor in the likelihood that the Patriots could take a quarterback with a top-five pick. With a young signal caller, New England would be far better suited to hire on the new-school, quarterback whisperer-style head coach to take the new franchise QB under tutelage.
Dan Quinn is a terrific defensive coordinator in this league, and it's okay if New England allows him to continue being just that.