7 realistic coaching candidates for Patriots after moving on from Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory over the last 24 seasons. After mutually agreeing to part ways with Bill Belichick, they are now in a position where they have a vacancy for a new head coach.

Finding a succession plan for Belichick, who is widely regarded as the greatest coach in NFL history, won’t be easy. Even if the team did fall off a cliff after the Tom Brady era, an argument could be made that things would have looked even worse with a lesser coach.

Belichick’s decision-making as a de facto general manager ultimately led to his undoing in New England more so than his coaching ability. Under his watch, the Patriots still had one of the best defenses in football, and they showed fight against significantly more talented teams.

But a 4-13 finish obviously wasn’t going to cut it.

The Patriots are looking to throw a fresh coat of paint on the franchise and get back to being a perennial contender. Here are seven coaching candidates to keep an eye on as potential replacements for Belichick:

Jerod Mayo

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jerod Mayo makes the most sense as an in-house option to succeed Bill Belichick. He passed on a coaching interview with the Carolina Panthers last offseason to remain in New England. Why would he do that if there weren’t any hints at the possibility of him taking over as head coach once Belichick stepped away?

Mayo already has a working relationship with the current players on the roster, and this isn’t a move that would be viewed as rocking the boat with a completely new coach. It would also pay homage to Belichick by turning the mantle over to a man that has studied underneath him both as a player and coach.

Mike Vrabel

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Vrabel instantly became the hottest coach on the market the moment the Tennessee Titans fired him. His deep ties with the Patriots organization are noted, and it would make sense for the team to explore the possibility of a reunion.

Vrabel is perceived as a players coach, which is a change-up from Belichick’s hard-nosed, old school approach. He also has more experience than Jerod Mayo at the job. That could prove to be too enticing for owner Robert Kraft to pass up in his search for a new coach.

Ben Johnson

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

The Patriots have been doing the same song and dance with defensive-minded head coaches for decades. They could finally decide to wipe off the dust and get with the times in a new-age NFL fueled by elite offenses.

If that’s the direction, the Patriots could go after Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who is quickly rising in the head coaching candidate pool.

The crux of the Patriots has been their offense, and perhaps they need the right pair of eyes to finally get the unit back on track.

Josh McDaniels

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

File this one under the isn’t likely to happen category, but Josh McDaniels does deserve a mention considering his ties in New England. There was already talk of him potentially returning if Bill Belichick stayed on as head coach.

He would be better suited to return as an offensive coordinator instead of a head coach. His last two runs in Denver and Las Vegas ended in disaster, and the Patriots can’t afford to experience a similar fate after parting ways with Belichick.

Bill O'Brien

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bill O’Brien fits the mold of an experienced, in-house option for the Patriots. He had a solid run as the Houston Texans head coach, and then his general manager blunders got him in hot water. Sound familiar?

There’s no question that O’Brien knows how to run a football team, and he could help the Patriots in a multitude of different ways. But does the team really want to follow up Belichick’s exit by hiring O’Brien as the next head coach?

There are far more intriguing options out there for them to explore.

Bobby Slowik

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Like Ben Johnson, Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik joining the Patriots would represent a legitimate shift in philosophy. What Slowik is doing right now in Houston is magical.

The Texans went from being the second-worst team in total offense last season to being 12th this year with a rookie quarterback. Take note of the latter part of that statement because that could be the Patriots’ situation in 2024.

They currently have the No. 3 overall pick of the 2024 NFL draft, and it would be great to see Slowik work some of that same magic with the Patriots’ new quarterback (assuming they draft one) as he is currently with C.J. Stroud.

Jim Harbaugh

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh finally broke through as a national champion in college football, after knocking off Alabama and Washington. Will he stay at Michigan or jump ship to the NFL?

If he’s considering an NFL return, the Patriots should be one of the first teams exploring the possibility of hiring him. Harbaugh found immediate success in his previous transition with the San Francisco 49ers. His coaching pedigree is unquestioned, and he’s obviously one of the very best in the NFL or collegiate levels.

He would make for a remarkable replacement for Bill Belichick.

Granted, plenty of work needs to be done with the Patriots’ roster, but they have the No. 3 pick of the draft and plenty of money to spend in the offseason to potentially lure a big name like Harbaugh.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire