FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has won six Super Bowls as a head coach and two more as an assistant coach with the New York Giants, so he has no shortage of remarkable accomplishments over his 46 NFL seasons. But one accomplishment that he ranks among his greatest falls into a different category: His escape from the New York Jets in 2000.
“That was one of the not only most defining, but one of the great moments of my career,” Belichick said Tuesday in his weekly interview on WEEI in Boston. “That combined with Robert [Kraft] giving me the opportunity to come here, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Belichick’s comments came after he was told that ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast of the Patriots’ 30-27 win over the Jets included a flashback to the news conference in which he resigned as “HC of the NYJ,” which paved the way for him to come to New England in a trade that included the Jets receiving a first-round pick.
“That wasn’t a good situation for me and I didn’t want to be a part of it, so I wasn’t,” Belichick said Tuesday in the radio interview. “The other half was Robert giving me the opportunity to come [to New England]. Trading, he gave up quite a bit for me to come here, that was a big trade. I’m very thankful that it worked out.
“I appreciate all the support from Robert, the Kraft family, the Patriots’ organization and all the New England fans. I’ll keep trying to do my best for this team, and this organization, giving the very best that I can. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to come here and I just wasn’t going to stay there in that situation.”
Belichick’s chilly feelings about the Jets and how things unfolded after Bill Parcells resigned following the 1999 season and thrust Belichick into the spotlight as his possible successor are well documented. That history includes 2006 when his former assistant Eric Mangini left the Patriots to become Jets coach, and a year later, the Jets blew the whistle on the Patriots’ videotaping practices at a game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Frosty feelings lingered. Before a 2013 Patriots game against the Cleveland Browns, when Belichick was asked if he still feels a connection to the Browns from his days as their head coach from 1991-1995, he said it was no different than past teams he’d worked for, saying, “I feel differently about the Jets. We won’t put them in that category.”
In 2017, during a joint practice with the Houston Texans, Belichick was speaking with reporters about his relationship with assistant Romeo Crennel when he said, “Romeo and I started together at the Giants in special teams, we worked at the Patriots together, then another team, and then back with the Patriots in 2001.”
Of course, that other team was the Jets from 1997-1999.
Meanwhile, over his first 20 seasons with the Patriots, Belichick had made a trade with every team in the NFL — except for the Jets. That ice finally thawed in September 2019 when Belichick shipped veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Jets for a sixth-round pick.
“I would say there was a certain period of time when there’s no way this transaction would have happened,” Belichick said at the time. “But, during other periods of time, yeah. We don’t want to help the Jets, they don’t want to help us, we’re in the same division. They aren’t the easiest trades to make, but if the trade is good for both teams, ultimately what we’re trying to do is improve our team.”