Arbella Early Edition

Curran: Why Bill Belichick is officially ‘on watch' this season

Robert Kraft appears to be turning up the heat on the legendary head coach.

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Bill Belichick is 19 victories away from becoming the winningest head coach in NFL history. But will he keep his job long enough to reach that milestone?

That would have been a ridiculous question to ask four years ago, when the New England Patriots were coming off their sixth Super Bowl title. Belichick's club hasn't won a playoff game since, however, and is 25-26 overall since Tom Brady left the team in 2020 free agency.

As the Patriots' head coach and de facto general manager, Belichick has taken plenty of blame for New England's regression to mediocrity; his decision to have Matt Patricia call offensive plays in 2022 backfired spectacularly, and the team's record spending spree in 2021 free agency produced more misses (Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor) than hits (Matthew Judon).

Belichick is back in the spotlight this week after failing to land DeAndre Hopkins, who reportedly is joining the Tennessee Titans on a two-year, $26 million contract despite showing interest in New England in free agency. The Patriots lack a true No. 1 wide receiver despite having an abundance of cap space, and if Mac Jones and the offense continue to struggle in 2023, you could point to Belichick's lack of spending as a root cause.

But would another down season really put Belichick's job in jeopardy? Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran believes so.

"If you're saying overall, the Patriots having all that cap space and not surrounding Mac Jones with enough talent to succeed is the final straw then, yeah, that could be the final straw," Curran said Tuesday night on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition, as seen in the video above.

Curran pointed to the words and actions of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has publicly voiced his frustration with the team's recent shortcomings and seemingly intervened to ensure Bill O'Brien was hired as New England's offensive coordinator this offseason.

"Robert Kraft made it really clear that he was the impetus behind Bill O'Brien's hire," Curran said. "And I think that reading between the lines on that, I don't know if Bill O'Brien would be hired here if it was left entirely up to Bill Belichick.

"So, we have chips being pushed continually into the middle of the table by Robert Kraft, whether it be pointing out the playoff losses, pointing out the draft losses or misses, his real irritation that really has never been aired that Tom Brady walked out and won a Super Bowl in Tampa when the Patriots were of a mind that he wasn't worth going more than year-to-year with.

"All of those together have (Kraft) very much going, 'Bill, what are we doing?' So, yeah ... He's on watch."

Curran doubled down on this take Tuesday during an appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show," noting that Belichick is "on the hot seat" with promising assistant coach Jerod Mayo presumably next in line if the Patriots continue to struggle.

"If they look disorganized, dysfunctional and discipline's out the window, then they might say, 'That was a great run, but can you go upstairs and just watch Jerod coach next year?'" Curran told Eisen.

It's hard to fathom the Patriots cutting ties with arguably the greatest coach of all time, and Belichick would probably tell you he's earned a little leeway after 20 years of unprecedented success in New England. But as Curran notes, it sounds like Kraft wants to see results this season, and if he doesn't, the following offseason could get interesting.

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