The Patriots will start next season with a new head coach for the first time since the turn of the millennium.
ESPN reported Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft have reached a “mutual decision” to start fresh after the franchise’s worst season since 2000. The legendary coach who led the Patriots to six Super Bowls alongside Tom Brady could still continue coaching in the NFL, but it wasn’t immediately clear what the 71-year-old would do next.
It won’t be easy for the Patriots to replace Belichick, whose departure comes less than 24 hours after friend and Alabama counterpart Nick Saban’s retirement shocked college football. Belichick is one of just three NFL coaches to record 300 career wins and is regarded league-wide as one of the best coaches of all-time.
As such, the Patriots will need to carefully choose a replacement. That may lead them to entrust the job to candidates with an intimate knowledge of the organization — or perhaps another high-end retread who would command similar respect to the venerable Belichick.
Still, completely changing course entirely and targeting one of the rising, young coaches in the league can’t be ruled out either. Kraft may be looking to add another coach to the fold who can hold the fort for another 24-year stint.
Here’s a look at the top coaching candidates that could interview with the Patriots as they look to change their coach for the first time in 24 seasons.
MORE: Latest updates on NFL coach firings for 2024
Patriots coaching candidates for 2024
- Team: Patriots
- Position: Inside linebackers coach
Mayo became the Patriots’ potential heir apparent to Belichick once Josh McDaniels left the squad to take on the Raiders’ coaching job. Mayo, 37, established himself as a key part of the team’s defensive play-calling after joining the team in 2019. New England’s defense has performed well under his leadership so Kraft and Co. may view this as an opportunity to keep one of New England’s strengths intact in the post-Belichick era.
That said, it’s worth noting that Eric Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal reported that Mayo “has rubbed at least some people the wrong way in the building since his extension.” That could impact his standing in any potential battle to become New England’s new coach.
Still, the Krafts seem to like Mayo, whose knowledge of the organization could be a boon to his case to coach the team. He played for the Patriots from 2008 to 2015 and won Super Bowl 49 with them. Many former players have found success as coaches in recent years, as they have been able to motivate their players in ways that other coaches haven’t.
Also, Mayo has rewarded the Patriots’ loyalty as he has gotten interview requests for coaching jobs in recent seasons. The Krafts may opt to reward that loyalty especially considering that Mayo wants to remain with the team.
“I love it here in Boston,” Mayo said before the 2023 NFL season while explaining his decision to stay in New England. “I pretty much was raised here in Boston. I came here in 2008. It would take a lot for me to leave. This is where I want to be, and I feel the same way from the coaching staff and also from Mr. Kraft. I wanted to be here because I feel like we do it right here.”
MORE: Why Robert Kraft sees Jerod Mayo as potential Bill Belichick replacement
If the concerns about Mayo ultimately prevent him from earning a head coaching nod, Vrabel would be the ideal hire for the Patriots. In fact, he might be the team’s best option anyway, as he has proven to be one of the best coaches in the league in recent seasons.
Tennessee fired Vrabel two days before Belichick and his will be the name most linked to the Patriots’ opening.
The Titans endured a down year in 2023, but Vrabel was working with a roster completely devoid of talent. His teams in Tennessee have always overperformed — especially the one that earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC following the 2021 season — and he particularly enjoyed success in developing players on defense.
The Patriots may view Vrabel as a more proven version of Mayo because of this. The Titans coach comes with the same organizational experience as Mayo too, as Vrabel played for the Patriots from 2001 to 2008 and won three Super Bowls with the franchise. That, plus his 53-45 coaching record could convince New England to chase him.