When any team in the NFL is performing poorly, speculation begins to dominate headlines regarding the future of the coaching staff and players, mostly on who will remain and who will be fired or traded. It's unfamiliar territory for the Patriots, who have been set in their ways for over twenty years now, with Bill Belichick running things as the head coach and the team's general manager.
Since New England sits at a 2-6 record heading into their Week 9 matchup with the Commanders on Sunday, there has been a lot of chatter about Belichick's job security in particular, which has reached a new peak as of Wednesday afternoon.
There have been plenty of debates since Tom Brady left the team in 2020, mainly because they have been unable to sustain consistent success and have had a lot of coaching staff turnover through three years. Much of that blame has been put on Belichick's shoulders, rightfully so, which has prompted the questioning of his fitness to remain the Patriots' head coach and GM for much longer.
Because that has been a theme this season and will likely continue, rumors have circulated suggesting Kraft was open to firing the long-time coach mid-season if he deemed it necessary. It was a shocking revelation considering the history of all involved, but the owner hasn't been shy about sharing his disappointment with the lack of success by the team in recent years, making the rumor appear more believable in that context.
With that allegation making waves through the media, an unprecedented move was made by someone close to Belichick and the team just hours before the team was set to take the field. An alleged leaked report revealed that prior to the start of the 2023 season, Belichick signed a multi-year contract extension, keeping him in New England for an unknown amount of time.
It was a significant piece of news, considering the discussion regarding his future on the team had been running rampant for weeks, making it seem someone close to Belichick was the source of the leak.
More speculation about the specifics of the contract has been discussed by those in the media, floating their ideas about what is actually in the agreement. They now have more to talk about as a new rumor has caused a frenzy online, courtesy of ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio.
The longtime sports writer dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, suggesting sources informed him about a potential trade between the Patriots and the Washington Commanders for Bill Belichick as soon as the upcoming offseason.
He claimed the idea has been whispered about in some "league circles," yet it remains a rumor, not a report.
Florio went on to say he's aware that upon hearing the initial story, it seems unbelievable, but says that the Commanders' actions leading up to the trade deadline indicate they are preparing for a complete overhaul next season. He also believes it would be an ideal situation for all parties since Belichick is the GM and would be able to negotiate his own trade, simultaneously creating an opportunity for the Patriots to get what they want in return as well.
"In theory, the Commanders would contact the Patriots, requesting permission to speak with Belichick about the Washington job and proposing compensation for him, if a deal is reached. If the Patriots are willing to negotiate, and if the two sides reach an agreement on compensation, the Commanders would then have the ability to negotiate directly with Belichick. If an agreement between the Commanders and Belichick is reached, the Patriots would get the compensation and Belichick would become the Commanders head coach."
It's certainly a plausible scenario that could benefit Washington and New England, both of which appear on the path to implementing massive changes at the end of the current season.
The Commanders have faced many obstacles in their attempt to become a competitive team again in recent years. On top of that, they've met a lot of criticism for their handling of several disturbing accusations surrounding their organization and owner. It's been nearly impossible for them to put together an adequate team, starting from the quarterback, and the Ron Rivera experiment has yielded the results they were hoping for.
The Patriots find themselves in a less controversial position but not necessarily an easier one.
Belichick has accomplished unimaginable success during his tenure in New England, making the idea of firing him almost unfathomable. However, the inability to assemble a formidable roster to become a dominant team, poor staff hires that significantly impacted the development of players and missing the postseason has caused frustration for Kraft in the last three years.
It all calls into question the leak about Belichick's new contract, which was clearly made public for specific reasons.
What those exact reasons could be will probably remain unclear for some time, but Florio believes it may have actually been the Patriots' way of letting the rest of the league know they can inquire about Belichick in the offseason, and now realize it would have to be a trade scenario.
"The possibility puts the recent report of Belichick’s new lucrative, multi-year contract in a different light. It seemed to be a leak from Belichick’s camp, aimed at throwing water on the notion that he would be fired during the season. Maybe it was actually a leak from the Patriots, as a reminder to any team thinking about hiring Belichick that, to get him, they’ll have to give the Patriots whatever the Patriots decide they want."
Despite Florio's efforts to stir up controversy and get people talking about the possibility of this new rumor to be believable, the consensus sniffed it out to be a sorry attempt at getting clicks and piling on a struggling team.
Many were quick to remind others about past "reports" released by Florio that were proven to be false fairly quickly, even reminding everyone of his suggestion that Belichick would be fired last season, prompting many to look the other way when seeing this new rumor trend online.
But that didn't stop some local reporters from digging for any information that may clarify the rumor, which is exactly what JP Finlay of NBC4 Sports did following Florio's article. Finlay revealed he spoke to people close to the Commanders who swiftly shut down the speculation with a blunt response of "no truth" to the story.
Although most expected to hear Florio's report was not based on reality, the conflicting reports created more chaos than resolution. There's a lot of uncertainty about Belichick's status as the Patriots head coach for years to come, more so than there was just one day ago, which is almost certainly what Florio was aiming for.
Regardless of the reasoning, it all adds another layer to a strange Patriots season that won't be cleared up for many months, if ever. So, unfortunately, that means we have to decide what seems the most believable rather than proceed based on facts, which isn't a fun spot to be in.