On this day 18 years ago, Bill Belichick resigned as head coach of the New York Jets after just one day with the title.
Bill Belichick was named head coach of the New York Jets on January 3rd, 2000. And, on January 4th, 2000, he “resigned as HC of the NYJ” on a poorly scrawled note on a napkin. Today is the 18th anniversary of the day that would change both franchises forever, the day that Belichick decided he would rather coach the New England Patriots than the Jets.
The Jets have had five coaches since losing Belichick. The longest any of them has lasted was one third of Belichick’s tenure: Rex Ryan for six years. They have never made an AFC Championship Game. Belichick has made 11. He has five Super Bowl wins, only one fewer than the six playoff wins the Jets have since losing him. Perhaps most importantly, the Jets have started more quarterbacks than can be counted in that span. The Patriots have largely revolved around one: Tom Brady.
Brady was taken in Belichick’s first draft, 2000. He was never expected to be what he became, but the stability that he would later bring (and Drew Bledsoe seemed to offer in the moment) may have been a reason Belichick considered for leaving. In 1997, Belichick joined the Jets with Bill Parcells intent on drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 pick that would later be defined by his rivalry with Brady: Peyton Manning. The only problem? Manning decided not to enter the draft. The Jets traded down. They still haven’t found their franchise quarterback.
Perhaps if Manning wore green and white, Belichick would have felt comfortable enough with Jets ownership (his stated reason for leaving) to stick around. The idea of a Manning-Belichick dynasty in New York is tantalizing, but even more so when you consider the possibility that Brady might have been drafted by the Jets as a potential long term backup. That’s right. It’s not entirely implausible to imagine a world in which Brady and Manning are on the same team. Belichick did draft Brady once, after all.
The other advantage offered by the Patriots was control over the team’s personnel. That was not coming in New York, where Parcells stuck around after retiring as a coach to be the general manager. Robert Kraft gave him total autonomy in roster decisions, power he has used to build the most sustainable dynasty in NFL history. The Patriots have not fallen below .500 since Belichick’s first season.
We’ll never know for sure what it was that sent the greatest coach of all time out of New York and into Foxboro’s waiting arms, but what we can say for certain is that it changed the course of football history forever. The existence of the greatest dynasty in the history of football hinged on a poorly written note, a quarterback who wasn’t ready for the NFL and the presence of another coaching legend on his own team.