5 Highlights From His Patriots Farewell With Robert Kraft

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The end of an era in New England has been made official.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, alongside team owner Robert Kraft, confirmed at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways. And so ends a 24-year run in New England of previously unseen dominance that included six Super Bowl wins, 17 division titles and a seemingly endless list of other accomplishments.

Belichick and Kraft reminisced on their time together and spoke on a variety of other topics during their nearly 10 minutes at the podium.

Here are a few highlights from the farewell press conference.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, on Thursday speaks to the media as he hugs legendary head coach Bill Belichick during a press conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Belichick announced he is stepping down after 24 seasons, 17 division titles and six Super Bowl victories with the Pats.
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‘Day of Gratitude and Celebration’ for Belichick

Belichick, donning a patterned jacket and blue tie, stepped up to the podium inside Gillette Stadium at noon ET. And it didn’t take long for the future Hall of Famer to address the reason for the gathering. After announcing his departure from the Patriots, though, Belichick spent most of his remaining time in the New England spotlight talking about others.

“For me, this is a day of gratitude and celebration,” Belichick said.

The 71-year-old first thanked the Kraft family for its support and belief over the years before delving into his admiration for the assistant coaches, scouts, team dining room employees and just about every other facet of the Patriots’ “first class” organization over the years. Then, there are the players. Belichick deflected praise by saying that “players win games in the NFL,” and said he was fortunate to have coached some of the best in NFL history, for whom he has the utmost respect.

But the last group to receive thanks from Belichick was the Patriots fanbase.

“The fans here are amazing,” said Belichick, a traditionally stoic look on his face but with a slight tremble in his voice. “So many memories of the fans—the send-offs, the parades, the Sundays—whatever the situations are. The letters of support. Seeing the fans away from here at a gas station or a grocery store or wherever [I’d] bump into them. Patriots fans, not just in New England but they extend nationally and even internationally … So appreciative of the fans for all the support they’ve given me, my family and this football team.”

Belichick Will ‘Always Be a Patriot’

The first time Belichick joined the Patriots organization was as assistant head coach/defensive backs coach in 1996 under Bill Parcells. A few years later, in 2000, Belichick took the reins in New England from Pete Carroll (who is similarly out as the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach this week). Over a third of his life has been spent with the Pats.

Belichick’s time coaching in New England may be over, but he will always be a Patriot.

“It’s with so many fond memories and thoughts that I think about the Patriots,” Belichick said. “I’ll always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here. But at this time, we’re gonna move on. I look forward and am excited about the future. But always [will be] very appreciative of the opportunity here, the support here, and Robert, what you’ve done for me.”

The winner of 296 games in New England, including playoffs, then looked to Kraft on his left, shook the owner’s hand and stepped down from the podium. What are believed to be his last words on behalf of the organization had just been spoken.

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Kraft-Belichick Relationship ‘Like a Good Marriage’

After Belichick delivered his prepared statement, Kraft took a few minutes to read off his.

The longtime Patriots owner said he and Belichick met this week to determine their future before amicably deciding it was best for both sides to seek fresh starts. Coming to that conclusion prompted the 82-year-old Kraft to make a rather fitting comparison.

“Like a good marriage, a successful head coach-owner relationship requires a lot of hard work,” he said. “And I’m very proud that our partnership lasted for 24 years.”

Belichick Is the GOAT, Kraft Says

Before Kraft was the Patriots owner, he was a season-ticket holder taking his sons to games, sitting on the metal benches inside the old Foxboro Stadium. After taking ownership of the franchise in 1994, Kraft had lofty goals. By hiring Belichick, those championship dreams became a reality.

And all that success over the last two-plus decades makes Thursday bittersweet.

“At heart, I will always be a sentimental sports fan,” Kraft said. “So this is a very emotional day for me. Some of my happiest and most memorable moments were celebrated with my family during Bill’s tenure here. I recognized that it is also a very emotional day for most of our fans, as it represents the end of an era—one that will hopefully always be celebrated in this region.”

Kraft said it’s safe to say any and all expectations he and Belichick had for the franchise when they teamed up in 2000 were exceeded, thanks to a combination of leadership and coaching skills from the franchise’s now-former leader that brought unprecedented success.

Doing so in the salary cap and free agency era no less has made Belichick, in Kraft’s eyes, forever a legendary sports icon and first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Why?

“Because he’s the greatest coach of all time,” Kraft said.

Belichick, Kraft Keep Things Light

Though there was a somber tone to both Belichick and Kraft’s remarks, the pair did offer some humor across their time on camera.

When first entering the auditorium housing the press conference, Belichick remarked that he hadn’t “seen this many cameras since we signed [Tim] Tebow.” Toward the end of Kraft’s time speaking, he said it’ll be difficult to see Belichick wearing a different team’s cutoff hoodie on the sideline should he choose to join another team, and wished the coach continued success—except when he’s playing the Patriots.

Another handshake and half-hug were exchanged after Kraft’s final words, and the owner cracked that Belichick had a cold so they weren’t going to kiss. Neither Belichick nor Kraft took questions immediately after their statements.

Belichick and Kraft exited the room, and so with them did an era of football not soon to be repeated, or forgotten.