Rumor Mill: Belichick's Last Stand?

For quite some time, PI has been tracking a couple of rumors that have just now been put in the Rumor Mill after more information has become available. One of those rumors concerns the possible departure of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Although these rumors are not new, their presence yet again dictates the need to address the possibility of these events actually happening. They continue to pop up in online reports, conversations around the water cooler and just about every place else.

To keep up with all the rumors visit the RUMOR MILL in the Insider's Lounge

Culpepper to Foxboro?

The first rumor update is one that has quarterback Daunte Culpepper joining the Patriots. However remote the potential of this rumor may be (and it is very remote), it is still possible until Culpepper signs with another team. The current Dolphin and former Viking quarterback has filed a grievance against the Dolphins for not letting him out of his contract or trading him. Culpepper became expendable when the Dolphins acquired Trent Green from the Kansas City Chiefs. The Hearing has been delayed due to scheduling, and is expected to happen just prior to the start of training camps.

Although the Patriots have Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and most likely Vinny Testaverde as their backups behind Tom Brady, the possibility of reuniting Culpepper with Randy Moss continues to make its rounds in some media circles. Although it's out there, league insiders insist the rumor is nothing more than that - a rumor.

"Don't expect him in New England, they have their backups," one source told Patriots Insider.

Numerous reports in the Florida media indicate it's only a matter of time before Culpepper joins the Jacksonville Jaguars. That may take some time according to NFL Insider Adam Caplan. "It's expected that he'll be playing in Jacksonville," he told Patriots Insider. "It may be up to 4 to 8 weeks [before he signs]."

As to the rumor of Culpepper to New England? Don't bank on it.

Belichick Making One Last Run?

The second rumor involves the future of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. According to a post on the website (PFT), Belichick may be loading up on talent this year because it is his last in Foxboro. Normally rumors like the one in PFT require substantiation by credible sources if no source is cited in the entry, but this is not the first time this particular rumor has surfaced.

Bill Belichick

The initial rumblings of Belichick's possible departure surfaced last year. They were typically connected to questions about the coach's contract status. Speculation increased after the Patriots signed and/or traded for a number of players during the 2006-07 off-season. The addition of Randy Moss during the Draft fueled more media speculation surrounding Belichick's future, and initiated a new wave of speculation that the coach may depart.

The PFT rumor speculated that Belichick, whose contract status after 2007 is unknown, may decide to move to a new location in the NFC. PFT 's report indicated another media member suggested that Belichick would like to win in both conferences.

"One prominent national media type has suggested to us that Belichick would like to be the first coach to win a Super Bowl in each conference," the PFT entry claimed.

Belichick may very well be interested in establishing his coaching record in both divisions. He may even have a desire to coach the New York Giants again. (Belichick often affectionately recounts his tenure in New York during his Patriots press conferences.) But he has gone on record as saying he's happy in New England.

In January, the coach told the Boston Globe that he's happy in Foxboro.

"I like the people I'm working with, I like the situation I'm in," Belichick said. "First of all, it starts at the top. Mr. Kraft and his family have been tremendously supportive, giving us great support and facilities and everything that they can give to make a team competitive. I don't sit here and say, 'If we had this or had that, it would make a difference.' We pretty much have everything we need, the ability to use resources. That's No. 1 right there.

Belichick then heaped praise on all those who surround him in the organization.

"I like our staff, and our organization. I think people work hard, they're committed, they're unselfish," the coach explained. "The players have a real good work ethic, and I think they're tough -- physically and mentally.

He summed up his feeling thusly:

"When you have those things, it's hard not to feel good about what you're doing, and it's not hard to keep doing it. I love football and I love the area. The players, the organization, the support we get. I have a great relationship with the two [people] most important to me, Mr. Kraft and [vice president of player personnel] Scott Pioli. I think all the way around, all three of us have a good relationship with each other, very workable, respectfully and complementary. It starts there."

To those who would counter these public claims of contentment by the head coach, there are other indications that 2007 is not Belichick's last stand in Foxboro. Take for example the 2007 Draft. If Belichick wanted to go out with guns blazing, as many have alluded to, why trade away much of the firepower to draft impact players in the 2007 Draft for picks in 2008? The Patriots gave away their first-round pick to the 49ers for a fourth-round pick in 2007 and the Niners first-round pick in 2008. New England then traded away their third-round pick in 2007 for the Raiders 2007 seventh-round pick and their 2008 third-round pick.

Sending two first-day 2007 draft picks to other teams for 2008 picks is not an indication of someone trying to "load up" for one last run. It's the sign that the organization is building for the long run.

Another corroborating piece of information that Belichick will remain in Foxboro comes from NFL insider Adam Caplan in a report he shared with Patriots Insider months ago. Caplan stated that sources within the organization feel that Belichick will return in 2008. Caplan's connections to many league sources, team executives, players and league insiders puts him in a position of access that neither PFT nor the other rumor starters have on Belichick.

It is one thing to hypothesize that Belichick may leave; it's another to actually report he's leaving. By all indications, Belichick is staying in New England for the long run.


For more on this rumor, and a number of other recent rumors, check the RUMOR MILL in the Insider's Lounge.

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