The immediate aftermath of his team’s 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs saw New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick work his way through the assembled crowd of players and coaches on the field. Belichick was seeking out a few specific members of the Chiefs to speak to.
The respect Belichick has for the players in question — quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive tackle Chris Jones — is obvious. It goes both ways, with several members of the Chiefs organization also speaking highly of the future Hall of Famer and his team as a whole during their postgame media availabilities.
“I’ve just got all the respect in the world for that guy,” said Kelce. “Every single time I go up against him — it’s the toughest job in the NFL, to go up against a Bill Belichick defense. He throws so much at you. He always has a lot of guys that can play smart, so hats off to Belichick for today, for making my life tough, that’s for damn sure.
“On top of that, getting a good group of guys that play well together. I’ve got a lot of respect for that team.”
Their loss to the Chiefs dropped the Patriots to 3-11 on the season. While it allowed them to gain ground on the No. 1 selection in next year’s draft, it added another defeat to an ever-growing list of disappointing results.
As a result, Belichick’s future beyond this season has come into question. Between conflicting reports and cries for change from both fans and media alike, those most closely associated with the game are still high on the 71-year-old and his ability to coach winning football.
“I think I’m always this focused when I’m playing against Coach Belichick,” said Mahomes. “I know how many different schemes he’s going to put out there and how great of a coach he is.”
“He’s done an unbelievable job, best in the business, ever,” added head coach Andy Reid. “I know how great he is, and I’ve got to deal with him by playing against him, so nobody better, not that I’ve gone against. Nobody better.”
Belichick returned the compliments during a media conference call on Monday morning.
“I have a ton of respect for the Chiefs organization, Andy,” he said. “Mahomes, Kelce, they’re both great players. They’re hard to coach against, hard to defend. I have a ton of respect for the way they play the game, how good they are, how consistent they are, and the job they’ve done.”
After joining the Patriots in 2000, Belichick led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles — including one against then-Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid — and an unprecedented run of success. Recently, however, he was tasked with overseeing a rebuilding process that has not gone as planned.
The team has missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, and has not won a postseason games since its victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. The current season, meanwhile, is the worst of Belichick’s 24-year tenure leading the team.
And yet, Reid sees a team that is not as far off to competing as it might seem.
“This is a team that is so close. This Patriot team is so close,” he said on Sunday. “Their number of losses against one-score is crazy. No. 1 in the league there, and that defense, Steve [Belichick] and his crew, they’ve done a nice job with that defense. They’re salty, and offensively, they had a nice plan there coming out.”
Of the Patriots’ 11 losses this season, seven have been of the one-score variety. Their defeat against the Chiefs did not fall in this category, but especially in the first half was highly competitive.
That said, the bottom line is that the Patriots have been unable to close out games and as a result own the second-worst record in football. Belichick’s future will therefore remain a hot-topic issue for the rest of the season, and beyond — regardless of the praises the Chiefs were throwing his way on Sunday.