Bill Belichick's future coaching the Patriots: What's next?

WITH A MONTH to go before the 2023 NFL regular season ends and a number of teams begin searching for new coaches, one potential opening looms as more historic and significant than all the others.

I'm talking, of course, about the New England Patriots. They last changed head coaches 24 years ago, when they moved on from Pete Carroll and replaced him with Bill Belichick, who went on to rewrite NFL history.

Belichick has won a record six Super Bowl titles as coach of the Patriots, dominating the salary cap era in unprecedented ways. After going 5-11 in his first season in New England, Belichick went 11-5 in Year 2 and won the Super Bowl after Tom Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. From 2001 to 2019 -- Brady's final season in New England -- the Patriots averaged 12.2 regular-season wins and went 30-11 in the postseason, including 6-3 in Super Bowls.

But since Brady left, the 71-year-old Belichick hasn't been able to make it work. The Patriots went 25-25 in the first three years post-Brady, playing only one playoff game (and losing by 30) in that span. This season, the Pats are 3-10 after Thursday night's win against the Steelers -- tied for second-worst in the NFL behind the Panthers, who fired coach Frank Reich two weeks ago.

Unproductive drafts, questionable staffing decisions and the failure to develop 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones into a franchise quarterback are among the factors that have contributed to the worst Patriots season in more than two decades. And whether it's team owner Robert Kraft's decision to move on, Belichick's decision to step away or a mutual decision between the two parties, there is a growing belief around the NFL that someone besides Belichick will be coaching the team in 2024.