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The end of an era? With Tom Brady gone, some Patriots fans want Belichick out too

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Bill Belichick is on thin ice in New England. The Patriots' head coach has led the team to a record-breaking six Super Bowl titles. But since star quarterback Tom Brady left the team, their record has been mediocre at best. Fans are tired of the losses and looking for change. Here's Ozzy Ahmed, general manager of the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse sports bar in Brookline, Mass.

OZZY AHMED: They've given up hope on it, pretty much. Yeah. They just - you know, they're still fans at the end of the day, but kind of just complaining and not feeling great about it.

SUMMERS: Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports has covered the New England Patriots for almost a decade, through highs and lows, and she joins me now. Welcome.

SHALISE MANZA YOUNG: Thank you, Juana.

SUMMERS: I want to start by talking about Belichick's role in the Patriots right now. He's the head coach, of course, but there's more to it, right?

YOUNG: Oh, yes. He has always been head coach and also basically their general manager, meaning he has final say over all personnel moves - contracts, who they draft, all those sorts of things. And so, you know, we're well over 20 years into his time with the team. There really is no part of the football side of the Patriots organization that he does not have deep, deep tentacles into. You know, the de facto GM or his right-hand man on the personnel side is the son of one of his longtime fellow coaches from years ago, when he was with the New York Giants. His two sons are both on the coaching staff. A lot of the coaches and front office personnel, they've never worked anywhere but for him. And so really, the entire football organization is Bill Belichick's making.

SUMMERS: I mean, culturally speaking, is it fair to you to say that there are not too many people around Belichick except the owner to give him some pushback on his impulses?

YOUNG: I think that's fair at this point. Earlier on, when he first got to the Patriots, the people that he brought in had coached in other places, had coached in other organizations and, you know, seen how other people do things. And now the vast majority of the people on his staff only know his way. And I don't know - you know, are his sons really going to push back on him? Is, you know, somebody who's never worked anywhere else and really wants to keep climbing the ranks in the NFL going to really push back on him? I don't know that there really are many people who would really stand up to him when it comes to some of the decisions that are being made.

SUMMERS: I mean, looking down the calendar, the Patriots' upcoming schedule is not easy. They are flirting with making some not-so-great franchise history for most losses in a season. Does that seem like where they may be headed, or do you think they might find a way to break that curse?

YOUNG: No. I mean, I actually wrote a few weeks ago that their Giants game that they had last weekend was probably the only game remaining on their schedule that you would say, oh, they're going to win that game. And they lost that game. So I - we could be looking at 2 and 15.

SUMMERS: I mean, I am thinking about the Boston sports fans in my life. I know it is a city and a region that loves its sports teams, loves its culture. What is the fans' breaking points? How long is this city going to put up with this?

YOUNG: You know, if you're a Patriots fan who's around 28 years old, you don't remember them being anything but amazing. So, you know, a lot of fans, I think, are done. There are still a lot of people who have been saying, in Bill we trust for the last 20 years, and they're still trying to hold on to that. But this is Year 3 post-Tom Brady. So I think a lot of fans are done. And I also - you know, trying to be as impartial as possible, there's really nothing wrong with a new infusion of blood, so to speak, into the Patriots' organization. The problem is because Bill's fingerprints are all over everything, it's going to be a complete gut renovation, you know, down to the studs. And if they do make that decision, they're just going to have to be patient because the rebuild is going to take a little bit.

SUMMERS: Shalise Manza Young is sports columnist for Yahoo Sports. Thank you.

YOUNG: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ TURN UP'S "FORBIDDEN FRUITS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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