The Belichick Effect: How the New England Patriots’ Coaching Changes Affects Iowa’s Older Workers

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Posted by Tom Foley

At a press conference in Gillette Stadium earlier this year, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, the team’s head coach of twenty-four years, announced that Belichick and the team had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

Belichick’s departure had been rumored for weeks, and the decision to “part ways” was not surprising. The Patriots won only four games during the 2023 season and had a losing record the season before that.

Belichick had another year remaining on his coaching contract, and at least some who watched the press conference wondered whether the second winningest coach in NFL history somehow deserved a little more latitude than Belichick received.

Other than Kraft’s carefully crafted statement that Belichick and he “mutually agreed to part ways amicably,” no real reason was given for the decision.

Belichick’s record speaks for itself. During the twenty-four years he coached the Patriots, the team won seventeen divisional titles and appeared in nine Super Bowls, winning six. The team had nineteen consecutive winning seasons and won seventeen divisional titles.

No NFL coach has ever achieved more other than, perhaps, Don Shula. Yet, after two losing seasons, Belichick was, it seems, not only asked to leave, but to leave quietly.

During the “parting ways” press conference, the word “retire” was never uttered. Kraft and Belichick both seemed to assume another NFL team would snatch up Belichick, and that Belichick would be on the sidelines sporting a different color cutoff hoodie next year.

Surely, another NFL teams would want to steal some of the Belichick coaching magic that resulted in nineteen consecutive winning seasons, seventeen divisional titles, and six Super Bowl wins.

Unfortunately, it seems the optimism regarding Belichick’s marketability was misplaced. Of the seven other teams that had head coaching vacancies at the beginning of this year, only the Atlanta Falcons and the Washinton Commanders expressed any interest in Belichick.

The day after the “parting ways” press conference, Kraft held another press conference and introduced Jared Mayo as the Patriot’s head coach. Mayo, a two-time Pro Bowler, played linebacker for the Patriots for eight years and was the Patriots linebacker coach under during the last five seasons. Mayo has never been a head coach before. 

Belichick is 71 years old. Mayo is 37 years old respectively. The average age of NFL head coaches is roughly 47 years old.

The appointment of Mayo is part of a series of hiring decisions that one media outlet referred to as “a hiring cycle in which several teams opted for youth.”

That hiring cycle also includes Mike Macdonald, who took over for former coach Pete Carroll. Carroll was fired after fourteen years. Macdonald, at age 36, is half Carroll’s age.

How Does This Discrimination Apply to Iowa Workers?

Federal and state law prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire individuals because of their age. To win an age discrimination claim, an older worker need only show that his or her age was the “determining factor” or a “motivating factor” in the decision to end their employment or to not hire them.

This depends on whether federal or state law applies in each situation, and an experienced Iowa employment law attorney can help you figure out which situation applies in your case.

While RSH Legal has not represented any former NFL coaches in an age discrimination case, we have obtained significant settlements for older employees who were fired or refused jobs or promotions under circumstances very similar to what Belichick has endured.

Most of the individuals we have successfully represented were Iowa’s older workers, long-time employees who were forced out after years of loyal and dedicated performance. They may have also been denied an employment opportunity that went to a substantially younger, less qualified person.

It is sometimes said that “ageism” is the last acceptable bias. It shouldn’t be.

If you are an older employee and you believe you are being forced to retire, demoted, passed over, or otherwise being treated less favorably than your younger counterparts, you should reach out to us at RSH Legal. Our experienced Iowa employment law lawyers are here to fight for fairness for you.

We offer FREE, no-obligation case evaluations to Iowans who have been mistreated at work. To schedule yours, call 319-409-6575 today.

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