Bill Belichick to meet with Robert Kraft on Patriots’ next steps

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said Monday that he would meet with team owner Robert Kraft, perhaps multiple times, to determine the franchise’s next steps following a 4-13 season.

“It was obviously a very disappointing season all the way around — players, coaches, staff, organization, everybody,” Belichick said in a video news conference the day after a season-ending defeat to the New York Jets in Foxborough, Mass. “It’s not anywhere close to what our standard and expectations are. So obviously things need to be fixed.”

The Patriots’ struggles have raised the question of whether Kraft will retain Belichick to continue coaching the team he has led to six Super Bowl titles.

“I’m under contract,” Belichick said. “I’m going to do what I always do, which is every day I come in, work as hard as I can to help the team in whatever way I can.”

Belichick said he could have a series of meetings with Kraft rather than just a single get-together.

“We’ll start … putting the pieces back together in terms of setting things up to go through a good, detailed analysis and to kind of start a reconstruction, if you will,” Belichick said.

He left open the possibility of relinquishing the control he possesses over the team’s roster.

“I’m for whatever collectively we decide as an organization is the best thing to help our football team,” Belichick said. “I have multiple roles in that. And I rely on a lot of people to help me in those responsibilities. Somebody has got to have the final say. … Whatever that process is, I’m only part of it.”

If Belichick and Kraft decide to part ways, Kraft could seek to receive draft-pick compensation from any other NFL team interested in hiring Belichick in what would amount to a trade.

“I learned that lesson from my dad growing up: You work for the team you’re working for and do the best you can for them until somebody tells you different,” Belichick said Monday. “So that’s not going to change.”

Panthers oust GM Scott Fitterer

The Carolina Panthers extended the housecleaning of their top football decision-makers, firing Scott Fitterer as their general manager.

The move comes after the Panthers lost Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to finish the season with an NFL-worst record of 2-15. They were shut out in each of their final two games, losing by a combined 35-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buccaneers.

“As we move forward with the new direction for our franchise, I have made the decision that Scott Fitterer will no longer serve as our general manager,” Panthers owner David Tepper said in a written statement. “I appreciate Scott’s efforts and wish the best for him and his family.”

Tepper previously fired Frank Reich only 11 games into his coaching tenure with the team. So the Panthers will be searching for both a new general manager and a new head coach. Chris Tabor finished the season as the interim head coach.

The Panthers hired Fitterer, who had spent 20 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, as their GM in January 2021. The team went 14-37 in three seasons with Fitterer leading the front office.

The Panthers won’t have the benefit of having the top choice in this year’s NFL draft. They traded that pick to the Chicago Bears as part of the deal that enabled them to move up in the first-round order to select quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 choice in last year’s draft.

Bryce Young’s rookie season continues to veer off course

Young struggled as a rookie, while C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 selection, immediately became a star and led the Houston Texans to the AFC South title. Tepper said during a news conference the day after he fired Reich that Panthers officials had been unanimous in their desire to pick Young and that he had supported that decision.

The tumult of the Panthers’ season also included the NFL fining Tepper $300,000 after video posted to social media showed him throwing a drink toward fans in the stands in front of his suite at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville during the loss to the Jaguars.

The sweeping changes that were expected following Josh Harris’s first season as owner of the Washington Commanders commenced Monday, as the team fired Ron Rivera as its coach.

The move had been widely expected. The Commanders completed a 4-13 season with Sunday’s 38-10 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. They will have the No. 2 selection in this year’s NFL draft.

Rivera coached the Commanders for four seasons, going 26-40-1. He never led the Commanders to a winning season but, even at 7-9, won the NFC East title in the 2020 season.

Commanders fire Ron Rivera after four seasons

The NFL’s team owners ratified the sale of the Commanders to Harris’s investment group on July 20, too late for the group to make major changes before the season. The new owners gave team president Jason Wright, members of the front office and Rivera the season to prove themselves.

The Atlanta Falcons again failed to turn at least a modest amount of promise into results, compelling them to fire coach Arthur Smith following the third losing season of his three-year tenure.

Owner Arthur Blank made the move hours after the Falcons lost in lopsided fashion Sunday in New Orleans to miss the playoffs and finish 7-10. It was the Falcons’ third straight 7-10 season under Smith, who was hired after a stint as the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.

“Decisions like this are never easy and they never feel good,” Blank said in a statement released by the Falcons. “We have profound respect for Coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years. He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations. After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”

The Falcons said the move was made at a meeting Sunday night in Atlanta involving Blank, Smith and Rich McKay, the team’s CEO.

The season ended with Smith directing a profane tirade at Saints Coach Dennis Allen on the field following Sunday’s game. Smith was upset that the Saints had run for a touchdown out of the victory formation in their 48-17 win. Allen issued a public apology to Smith and the Falcons during his postgame news conference, saying Smith had the right to be upset.

The Falcons entered Sunday with a chance to reach the playoffs. They would have won the NFC South, even with an 8-9 record, if they had beaten the Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had lost to the Panthers. But the Buccaneers beat the Panthers to win the division at 9-8.

Smith — the 41-year-old son of FedEx founder Fred Smith, a former limited partner in Washington’s NFL team — failed to get the Falcons back to the level they reached under his predecessor, Dan Quinn. The Falcons made the Super Bowl under Quinn in the 2016 season but squandered a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots in overtime, 34-28. The Falcons returned to the playoffs the following season but have not been back since.

The NFL playoffs are set. Here’s what you need to know.

Smith did not resolve the Falcons’ quarterback situation after they traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in March 2022 following a failed bid to acquire Deshaun Watson. The Falcons attempted to establish second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder as their starter this season. But Ridder struggled, and backup Taylor Heinicke made four starts in a failed attempt to salvage the season.

The Falcons said the search for Smith’s successor will be led by Blank and McKay and will include “input” from General Manager Terry Fontenot and “several other appropriate members of Blank’s Atlanta Falcons and AMB Sports and Entertainment organizations.”

Teams searching for new coaches

The Falcons and Commanders joined the Las Vegas Raiders, Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers in searching for new coaches. The Raiders, Panthers and Chargers fired their coaches during the season.

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