New England Patriots

Here's what Bill Belichick said in his final Patriots press conference

"I'll always be a Patriot."

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Thursday marked the end of an era.

The end of Bill Belichick's 24-year run as head coach and de facto general manager of the New England Patriots.

The partnership produced an unprecedented amount of success, highlighted by six Super Bowl titles (nine appearances), 17 AFC East division championships and numerous NFL/team records.

The team announced the mutual parting of ways between the two sides Thursday. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Belichick each gave statements during a press conference at Gillette Stadium around noon. No questions were taken. Kraft will hold his own presser at 2 p.m. ET, where he is expected to take questions from the media.

Here is Belichick's statement:

"Robert and I, after a series of discussions, have mutually agreed to part ways. And for me, this is a day of gratitude and celebration. I'll start with Robert and his family. So much thanks for the opportunity to be a coach here for 24 years. It's an amazing opportunity, received tremendous support. We had a vision of building a winner, building a championship football team here, and that exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations. The amount of success that we were able to achieve together through a lot of hard work and the contributions of so many people, I'm very proud of that. And always have those great memories. I'll carry those with me the rest of my life.

"And of course, thanks to the assistant coaches, so many great coaches here. They've made my job so much easier. It's a long list. But the amount of work, preparation and diligence that they do, every one of them. And I say this about the players and the coaches, regardless of how long they were here, how many years they were here, how many years they coached or what the position was, it was a great team effort, and everybody put everything they had into it, and that's why we were successful. So the coaches, the support staff, the amazing staff here that supported me in every way, all the scouting and all the football support people from equipment, training, security, video operations and so forth right down the line to the dining room, it's all first class, it's all extremely good. And special thanks to Berj and Nancy, they've been here since Day 1 and made my life a lot easier, or I've made there's a lot harder, however you want to look at it. A big shout out to them. 

"Of course, a great deal of thanks and appreciation for the players. Players win games in the NFL, and I've been very, very fortunate to coach some of the greatest players who have ever played, some of the greatest players who have ever played for the Patriots. Some of them already in the Hall of Fame, many more are going. But again, regardless of how long any of the players were or weren't here, or what their role was, or how many games they played, or even if they didn't win championships, I respect the way the players come to work here on a daily basis. All of them I've coached, well over a thousand, their ability to work, prepare, train in the weight room, train their bodies, meet, rehearse over and over again. What we need to do to win and be successful. I have so much respect for all the players. And certainly we've had many who have been here for a long time and had great contributions. Too many to name at this time. But, great thanks to the players.

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"And the media, for you guys. I don't know that anybody has gotten more coverage than I have or we have in the last 24 years. So with you guys, a lot of respect for what you do. You're the voice of the fans. And even though we don't always see eye-to-eye all the time, most of the time, but not all the time, I do respect what you do.

"And finally, to the fans. The fans here are amazing. There's so many memories of the fans, the sendoffs, 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, wherever you bump into them. And not just in New England, but they extend nationally and even internationally. It's amazing how far it reaches. We saw that this year in Germany. I'm so appreciative of the fans for all the support they've given me, my family and this football team.

"It's with so many fond memories and thoughts that I think about the Patriots and I'll always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here. But at this time, we're going to move on. I look forward and I'm excited for the future, but always very, very appreciative of the opportunity here, the support here. And Robert, what you've done for me, thank you."

Here is Kraft's statement:

"As Bill mentioned, yesterday, we met and mutually agreed to part ways, amicably, and like a good marriage, a successful head coach/owner relationship requires a lot of hard work, and I'm very proud that our partnership lasted for 24 years. I don't think in the NFL there's been any other partnership that lasted longer and has been as productive as ours.

"I trusted my instincts to bring Bill back to New England in 2000 after immediately regretting not hiring him after working with him together in 1996. When I did hire him, I was still making the transition from the fan who bought season tickets in 1971, sitting on the metal benches in the old Foxboro Stadium with my boys to try to become an experienced owner.

"Bill has taught me a lot over those years, and we had high expectations for what we could achieve together. I think we were the only ones who had those expectations, and I think it's safe to say we exceeded them, thanks to you. It's hard to put into words, really, when I think back to sitting on those metal benches, and that we'd have an opportunity to go to 10 Super Bowls together and bring six Lombardi trophies home to Massachusetts. At heart, I will always be a sentimental sports fan, 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 recognize that it also is a very emotional day for many of our fans, as it represents the end of an era, one that hopefully will always be celebrated in this region. The man standing to my left brought the leadership and coaching skills that were needed to make this type of unprecedented success that we have had possible. Coach Belichick will forever be celebrated as a legendary sports icon here in New England, and I believe go in as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on the first ballot. Why? Because he is the greatest coach of all time, which makes this decision to part ways so hard. But this is a move that we mutually agreed that is needed at this time.

"What Bill accomplished with us, in my opinion, will never be replicated. And the fact that it was done in the salary cap and free agency era, makes it even more extraordinary. I thank Coach Bill for his hard work and dedication. It'll be difficult to see him in a cut off hoodie on the sideline, but I will always continue to wish him continued success, except when he's playing our beloved Patriots. So I thank you all for coming here today and being part of this celebration."

Here is the video of the entire press conference:

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