By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Prior to the year 2000, the New England Patriots owned an all-time win-loss record of 275-312-9. In the postseason, the Patriots owned a 7-10 record. They made it to two Super Bowls in 40 years but had failed to bring home a Lombardi.
Then the team got Bill Belichick (and Tom Brady). Then everything changed.
And the start point for that change was precisely 20 years ago to the day. It was Jan. 27 in the year 2000 that Bill Parcells sent a letter via fax to Bob Kraft, signifying an agreement for compensation if the Patriots went ahead and hired Belichick away from the Jets.
A few weeks earlier, Belichick had abruptly resigned from his brief tenure as head coach of the Jets (or “HC of the NYJ” as he put it on his resignation scrap paper) after Parcells decided to move to the front office, thereby automatically elevating Belichick (who had been the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Parcells) to the head coach position. Belichick, though, wasn’t enthused about that job, and he’d ultimately to decide to work for Kraft, whom he knew from being on Parcells’ staff in New England in 1996.
It didn’t take long for the Patriots to secure Belichick after receiving that letter from Parcells, as Belichick was introduced as the Patriots’ head coach later that day.
Belichick opened with a joke.
“Hopefully this press conference will go a little bit better than the last one I had,” he said with a laugh, giving a nod to his bizarre resignation press conference at the Jets’ facility earlier that month.
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) December 20, 2016
A spry 47 years old at the time, Belichick expressed supreme optimism for the Patriots’ franchise.
“I’m tremendously excited to be here, to be a part of the New England Patriots organization. This is a first-class operation,” Belichick said. “I’ve had an outstanding experience in 1996 when I was here with the Patriots and with Robert, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this organization and to be able to have the opportunity to lead this team.”
Kraft said in the 30 For 30 from 2018 called “The Two Bills” that he wanted to keep Belichick in New England after Parcells bolted for the Jets following the team’s Super Bowl loss after the 1996 season, but instead opted to go for a fresh start on the coaching staff. Just a few years later though, Kraft made sure to not miss out on the opportunity to sign Belichick.
“I like him a lot, and I believe he’s the most capable person at this point in time, to help us win next year,” Kraft said. “He’s just someone I respect a lot. I think he’s very intelligent, he’s very diligent and hard-working, he’s a student of the game, and he’s driven to win.”
While everyone now knows the resolution of the conflict with the Jets, the Patriots weren’t so sure at the time that they’d get their man. As a result of that uncertainty, they interviewed Dom Capers for the head coaching position a day before hiring Belichick.
But Parcells’ and Kraft’s agreement ended the stalemate, which helped prevent Belichick from having to spend the 2000 season out of football.
“When I resigned, I was just not comfortable with my situation. Now I’m ready to turn the page and move on. I have no animosity toward the Jets. I did what I had to do. They did what they had to do,” Belichick said. “I am relieved to have everything behind me. Twenty-four hours ago, I was prepared to sit out the year. And I was prepared to sit out the year when I left the Jets.”
Belichick also denied any truth to a suggestion from New York reporters that he left the Jets in order to get out from under Parcells’ shadow.
”If I wanted to get out of Bill’s shadow, I wouldn’t have come to New England,” he said. “There’s a shadow up here, too.”
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) December 20, 2016
Here’s the letter that Parcells sent to Kraft, with the text pasted beneath:
20 years ago today: the greatest trade in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/izcPs4h0GV
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 27, 2020
Director of Football Operations
January 27, 2000
Robert K. Kraft
International Forest Products
One Boston Place
Boston, MA 02109
VIA FACSIMILE: 617-305-7731
This letter is intended to memorialize our conversation from last night, which occurred around 11:00pm.
The New York Jets hereby grant permission to the New England Patriots to talk to Bill Belichick about any position they desire.
If Bill Belichick accepts and assumes a position with the New England Patriots, and reports to work on or before Monday, January 31, 2000 then, the New York Jets trade to the New England Patriots their 5th round pick in the 2001 annual NFL selection draft, and their 7th round in pick in the 2002 annual NFL selection draft, and the New England Patriots trade their 1st round pick in the 2000 annual NFL selection draft (16th overall), their 4th pick in the 2001 annual selection draft, and their 7th round pick in the 2001 annual NFL selection draft.
Formal trade papers will follows, and all copies will be filed with the league office.
That agreement, in short, was as followed:
JETS SENT TO NEW ENGLAND
The rights to Bill Belichick
Fifth-round pick in 2001
Seventh-round pick in 2002
PATRIOTS SENT TO NEW YORK
First-round pick in 2000
Fourth-round pick in 2001
Seventh-round pick in 2001
The first-round pick was, obviously, a steep price, but Belichick was deemed worth it.
And the fact that Belichick and the Patriots’ staff were able to pick Tom Brady late in the sixth round of the draft a few months later? It provided the one-two punch that changed football history forever.
It all began 20 years ago on this date, when Belichick shared a message that he’s repeated time and time again during his two decades in charge of the Patriots.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be done in a relatively short amount of time, and I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to get those things done efficiently and in a manner which will give our football team the best opportunity to win,” Belichick said. “That’s all I really am about, is trying to win football games.”
With a 237-83 regular-season record, a 30-11 playoff record, 17 AFC East titles, nine AFC crowns and of course six Super Bowl victories, Belichick has delivered on that message several times over during his 20 years (and counting) leading the Patriots.