HOUSTON -- By the time Robert Kraft poured cold water on the growing fire about him potentially conveying that an end to Bill Belichick’s career was in sight, the damage had been done. The football world was, briefly, imagining itself without its best coach.
That day will obviously still come at some point, but to consider this the stretch-run of the 64-year-old Belichick’s career might still be quite hasty.
If and when Belichick does retire, Josh McDaniels would make sense as his successor if McDaniels doesn’t depart before then. McDaniels said he can’t envision a day that Belichick, who has not had a year off from coaching in the NFL since 1975, spends his days on the golf course rather than the stadium.
“I can’t. I can’t,” McDaniels repeated. “I just -- ever since I’ve known him, I’m trying to learn from him every day about a number of different things and he’s such a great teacher, mentor to all of us, great leader for our organization. It would be hard for me to picture that day. I hope he continues to do what he loves to do as long as he wants to.”
McDaniels has worked under Belichick for a long time, coaching with the Patriots in various roles from 2001 through 2008 and then again from 2012 on.
Yet when McDaniels thinks about his boss hanging up the hoodie, he comes off as someone who isn’t done learning from Belichick.
“I’ve learned so much from him and he challenges us every single day,” McDaniels said. “He sets the bar high, the expectations for our organization and the standard are as high as they’ve ever been, and he pushes us to reach it. There’s no letup, that’s for sure, and I’m just excited to have the opportunity to work for him.”
The talk of no letup was echoed throughout the Patriots’ media availability at their team hotel Thursday. LeGarrette Blount called him “the same old Bill.”
“I don’t see him retiring no time soon,” Blount said, adding, “He’s still got everything that he had when he won the first championship. He still got it.”
A popular question asked to players Thursday was who they thought would retire first between Belichick and Tom Brady. Dont'a Hightower joked that “they might just go at the same time.” When it was asked to Brady, McDaniels could be heard walking by calling, “Not Tom!”
As usual, Matthew Slater was thoughtful on the subject of Belichick’s career wrapping up. He noted retirement is a fact of life, but was extra sure to convey that he doesn’t expect to have a new head coach in New England any time soon.
“That’s really hard to imagine at this point,” Slater said. “That day comes for everyone, obviously. When it comes for him, I don’t know, but I think it’s a long, long, long, long ways away.”
Phil Perry contributed to this report.