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Head Coach Candidates for the 2024 New England Patriots

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President of the New England Patriots Jonathan Kraft, left, looks on with owner Robert Kraft, right, before the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. The Krafts will need to decide on the future of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

The New England Patriots are sitting at 3-11 on the season. They are guaranteed to finish their fifth season in a row without a playoff victory. It will also be the second straight year the team finishes with a losing record. This adds up to longtime Patriots head coach Bill Belichick finding himself very much on the hot seat. In fact, some claim a decision to replace Belichick was made weeks ago.

Bill Belichick has been the head coach of the New England Patriots since 2000. His job security for “next season” appears to be more than talk radio fodder for the first time ever. So who will be the head coach of the Patriots in 2024? Here are ten head coaching candidates, from least to most likely:

10. Steve Belichick

Even if Robert Kraft is ready to part ways with Bill Belichick, the CEO does not want to breakup on bad terms. What better way to stay in Bill Belichick’s good graces than by giving Steve Belichick the head coaching job? Some have complained about nepotism with Belichick sons on the coaching staff, but by all appearances they have done an excellent job. Every unit coached by Steve Belichick has been elite. He’s been with New England for 12 seasons, so he has plenty of NFL experience. He is also young enough at 36 to relate to players more than his father might be able to at this stage. The head coach of the top team in the latest NFL Power Rankings happens to be the son of a head coach with a few Super Bowl titles too.

9. Bill O’Brien

The three New England head coaches under the ownership of the Kraft family all had prior head coaching experience. O’Brien checks that box. He is also the most successful NFL head coach out of the Belichick assistants. In his six full seasons as head coach of the Houston Texans, O’Brien’s regular season record was 52-44 (54.2 winning percentage). He only had one losing year in those six seasons, reached the playoffs four times, and won in the playoffs twice. Bill O’Brien the head coach might have been done in by Bill O’Brien the executive, a role which he would not hold in New England. Obviously, he is a candidate the Kraft family is very familiar with as well.

8. Pete Carroll

Could the first head coach hired by Robert Kraft also be the next one? Carroll is about seven months older than Bill Belichick, but age has not seemed to slow him down. The traits that once made Bill Belichick the right guy to replace Carroll could now make the Seahawks head coach the right man to replace Belichick. Carroll enjoys a closer relationship with the players on the team, and having successfully navigated the college ranks at USC once upon a time, seems to have a good finger on the pulse of a younger generation. Perhaps a “rah-rah” approach returning to Foxboro would be just what the doctor ordered after a quarter of a century of “do your job.” And perhaps a change of scenery would do Pete Carroll some good as well, as the Seahawks last won a playoff game in 2019.

7. Brian Flores

Flores checks a lot of boxes. He has NFL head coaching experience and ties to the Patriots organization. Flores was an assistant coach in New England for 11 years (2008-to-2018) before getting his shot to run the show. As head coach for the Miami Dolphins (2019-to-2021) Flores compiled a 24-25 record despite owner Stephen Ross allegedly wanting the team to tank. There were rumors of Flores being abrasive with young players in Miami, which might not be a good fit for a “change” in New England. However, Brian Flores has done well as a defensive coordinator for Minnesota this season. The Vikings are in the playoff hunt thanks to their defense allowing the sixth fewest points in the NFL. Could Brian Flores convince Vikings free agent DE Danielle Hunter to come to New England with him?

6. Tom Brady

Is Tom Brady the sixth most likely person to become head coach of the 2024 New England Patriots? Probably not. But tough to think of a more popular pick. He slots in at six to honor the number of Lombari Trophies he helped bring to New England. Knowledge of the game is no issue. Not having coaching experience would normally be a concern, but Brady was practically a coach on the field for much of his playing career. Whether he’d be interested in coaching is one major obstacle. But if he’s interested, why not? With a rookie quarterback likely leading the Patriots next season, who’s a better mentor than the greatest to ever do it? Fans would certainly approve. The Patriots should want to avoid the equivalent of  the Boston Celtics hiring Rick Pitino, only to watch Larry Bird win Coach of the Year in Indiana. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

5. Mike Vrabel

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe claimed earlier this season that Mike Vrabel was the Krafts’ “home run choice” to replace Bill Belichick. Technically Vrabel isn’t a direct branch on the Belichick coaching tree, as he was never an assistant in New England. However, he did play under the current head coach for nine seasons, winning three Super Bowls. Maybe a coaching career away from Foxboro is part of the appeal of Vrabel. He also combines being both tough and personable. Vrabel has coached the Tennessee Titans for the past seven seasons. He has amassed a 53-43 regular season record (.552). The 2019 Titans reached the AFC Championship Game, ending Tom Brady’s Patriots career along the way. However, after five straight winning seasons, the Titans are just 12-21 the last two years.

4. Ben Johnson

Johnson strays from the field in several ways. He has no ties to the Patriots organization. He is also offensive-minded and young. Ben Johnson is considered one of the bright offensive minds in all of football. He is currently the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. Though he has no head coaching experience, several successful NFL head coaches in 2023 are at their first stop. At only 37-years old, Johnson represents a change in eras, along with the side of the ball he specializes in. He began his coaching career in the area, as a graduate assistant for Boston College. In his playing days, Johnson was a walk-on QB for North Carolina. The opportunity to work with fellow Tar Heel QB Drake Maye in New England could prove to be a nice fit.

3. Jerod Mayo

Many consider Jerod Mayo to be the “coach in waiting” in New England. Based on recent rumor-mongering by NBC Sports Boston, it is likely some in the media believe this to be true as well. After an excellent playing career in New England (2008-to-2015) was cut short due to injury, Mayo returned in 2019 to join the Patriots coaching staff. When Mayo turned down opportunities to interview for head coaching positions this past offseason, many viewed it as the Krafts having guaranteed him a spot as the heir apparent in New England. That has never been confirmed publicly by any of the parties involved. Mayo is considered the de facto defensive coordinator in Foxboro (nobody officially holds that title) and New England’s defense has certainly been impressive, despite injuries and the team’s lackluster record in 2023.

2. Jim Harbaugh

If Michigan’s head coach opts to return to the NFL he will be in high demand. Jim Harbaugh has a nice thing going in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines are contending to become 2023 National Champions. However, he has also been running into NCAA disciplinary issues. Harbaugh has been suspended twice this season, for different infractions. The scrutiny of the NCAA cold drive Harbaugh back to the pro game, where he once excelled. His record with the San Francisco 49ers was an impressive 44-19 (.695) from 2011-to-2014. Harbaugh helped San Francisco become 2012 NFC Champions. He will be 60 on opening day 2024, but has been around college kids for quite some time. That also makes him more than a decade younger than the current head coach. Perhaps Harbaugh brings QB J.J. McCarthy with him to Foxboro in the second round, after selecting WR Marvin Harrison, Jr. in the first?

1. Bill Belichick

The most likely person to be head coach of the 2024 New England Patriots is their current head coach. In this scenario, Bill Belichick relinquishes some front office power. He’d still be part of the process, but surrounded with executives he is comfortable with (Matt Groh, Jon Robinson, Mike Lombardi, Thomas Dimitroff, Dave Ziegler, Scott Pioli, are all options). There could be a 3-to-5 person panel, including Belichick, where majority rules. This democratic way of doing things would only be a slight change in New England, but could make a world of difference. Belichick could get the majority of his focus back to the field, leaving talent acquisitions largely up to others. The winningest coach of the NFL’s Super Bowl Era would be able to eventually leave the franchise on much better terms than they’d be left at the moment. After six Super Bowls and nine AFC Championships, he’s earned it.