The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin recently reported that it wasn’t out of the question that Patriots coach Bill Belichick could be fired if the team loses to the Colts in Sunday’s trip to Germany. So it might really be a win-or-go-home situation for the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach.
It’s hard to envision the team ousting arguably the greatest coach of all time without a proper sendoff at the midway point in the season. But it does feel like Belichick could be on borrowed time in New England.
Whether it’s after the Colts game or at the end of the season, the Patriots could be merely days or months away from making a franchise-altering decision.
When and if the hammer falls, these are the 10 coaching candidates that could potentially take Belichick’s place.
Things have gotten rocky lately in Tennessee, but there’s no question that Mike Vrabel put the franchise back on the map since his arrival in the “Music City.”
Before last season, the team had appeared in three consecutive playoffs, including an AFC Championship meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. Vrabel has deep ties with the Patriots organization considering he won three Super Bowls with the team and was just inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“I want you not to take this organization for granted,” Vrabel told Patriots fans, during his Hall of Fame induction. “I’ve been a lot of places. This is a special place with great leadership, great fans, great direction, great coaching. Enjoy it. It’s not like this everywhere.”
Vrabel coming home to New England would make for a great story, but it might cost the Patriots a high draft pick to make that happen.
Jerod Mayo has always been pegged as the chosen one to take Belichick’s place at some point. Why else would he turn down a head coaching and defensive coordinator interview to stay in New England?
Mayo has been right there by Belichick’s side soaking up information from the very beginning. In many ways, it feels like the perfect teacher-to-student transition. Belichick drafted Mayo at No. 10 overall in the 2008 NFL draft and then took him under his wing and gave him his first coaching job after he retired.
Mayo would be the greatest extension of Belichick on the entire list of candidates.
If the Patriots are simply looking from a been-there-done-that perspective, then it would make sense to consider offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as a viable candidate to replace Belichick.
Granted, everything wasn’t hunky-dory in his run as the Houston Texans’ head coach, but most of his issues with that organization stemmed from questionable personnel decisions more than the product on the field.
After moving on from Belichick, the Patriots are likely to follow a more collaborative approach between the general manager and coach, which would keep that from being a problem for O’Brien.
Perhaps the third time would be the charm for Josh McDaniels.
Look, it’s hard to make sense of one man receiving three coaching opportunities when most never get one. Not to mention McDaniels was fired in the middle of the season from both of his previous stints with the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos.
But he clearly has a connection with the Patriots and quarterback Mac Jones, who performed at his best when working under the former longtime offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. This makes sense from merely a familiarity and experience perspective.
Not everyone is looking for an extension of Belichick. Some would prefer a clean slate and someone completely new at the helm in New England. The Patriots have been doing the defensive thing for a long time.
Why not take a shot on an offensive-minded coach to bring in a new era?
Eric Bieniemy has been on the cusp of earning his first head coaching job in the NFL, but it hasn’t materialized yet. His offensive creativity is well-documented, and it also helps to be a chip off the block of the Andy Reid coaching tree.
Who loves high-flying offenses?
The Patriots probably would at this point considering theirs has been grounded since Tom Brady wrote his goodbye letter.
Kliff Kingsbury’s vision might need to be reined in to some degree in the NFL, but his offensive mind is undeniably great. And he could shake the cobwebs off the current brand of football that has kept the team stagnant over the last few years.
The Patriots would obviously need the skilled players to make it all work, but Kingsbury’s eye for offensive talent would help them figure it all out.
Young coaches with talent seem to always be in the proximity of Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay.
Rams pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson is no different. A return to New England would be a cool story for Robinson, who was selected in the seventh-round by Belichick as a quarterback in 2010.
It would be like putting a fresh coat of paint on the Patriots. The experience isn’t there with Robinson, and there would obviously be some risk involved. But it could pay off in a big way for the team down the line.
Now, this would be a dream scenario for the Patriots.
The San Francisco 49ers have sniffed the Promised Land and still come away with empty bellies too many times. It doesn’t help matters that coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch completely whiffed on quarterback Trey Lance, who was taken with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
If that sets the stage for change in San Francisco, especially if the 49ers fail to live up to expectations in the playoffs, the Patriots need to be the first team in line to jump on the Shanahan train.
Belichick might not have trusted Nick Caley enough to promote him as the offensive coordinator, which is odd considering how long he’s been with the team.
The longtime tight ends coach left for Los Angeles in hopes of creating better opportunities for himself. Some would argue that a head coaching opportunity would be too big of a jump for a young coach that hasn’t even served as a coordinator.
But then again, it would be a new direction for a team that desperately needs it with a candidate that already has deep ties with the franchise.
Ben Johnson had a rocket strapped to his back the moment the Detroit Lions put him in the offensive coordinator position. All he’s done is help turn a perennial losing team into a viable contender with a top-10 offense.
The Patriots could sure use some of that offensive magic right about now. Johnson is another young and motivated head coaching candidate with the sort of ideas that could generate a spark in New England.
That’s exactly the kind of energy the team should be looking for when moving on from a legendary figurehead like Belichick.