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Eight Candidates to Replace Belichick in the Patriots Front Office



Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Indianapolis. Could he be the next GM for the New England Patriots? (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The New England Patriots have filled one of Bill Belcihick’s jobs with the hiring of new head coach Jerod Mayo. However, Belichick’s role running the front office in New England still needs to be replaced. The franchise needs somebody with a final say on football decisions, a role Belichick has filled for over two decades.

One of the rumored options, Adam Peters of the San Francisco 49ers, is reportedly heading to Washington to take control of the Commanders. Not to fret Patriots Nation, there are still plenty of quality options remaining.

It appears Robert Kraft is most comfortable hiring people he is familiar with. This was evidenced, in part, with the decision to promote Jerod Mayo from within. So despite some quality options from outside of the New England Patriots family, the focus here is on those with a known relationship with the Krafts.

Ray Agnew

Agnew has never worked in the New England Patriots front office, and is a rare candidate that has familiarity with Robert Kraft in New England, without overlapping with Bill Belichick. Agnew was a first round pick by the Patriots in 1990 out of NC State. Like Jerod Mayo, Agnew was selected tenth overall. He played the first five of his 11 NFL seasons with New England, including the first two teams under Robert Kraft’s ownership. He went on to play for the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams, with whom he won a Super Bowl in 2000.

Following Ray Agnew’s playing career, he became a scout for the Rams. By 2017 he had worked his way up to Directior of Pro Personnel, helping to assemble the team that would go on to win the Super Bowl in 2022. After four seasons in that role, Agnew left to become the assistant GM of the Detroit Lions, who just won their first division title in 30 years.

Trey Brown

New England just hired the NFL’s youngest head coach in Jerod Mayo, so why not pair him up with the 38-year old Brown to see if they can be a duo for years to come. Trey Brown was a scout for the New England Patriots from 2010-to-2012, so he would be familiar with both the Krafts, and Jerod Mayo. from his early playing days.

Brown went on to work in the Philadelphia Eagles front office for several years before one-year stints in both the AAF and UFL. The past three seasons Brown has been a member of the Cincinnati Bengals from office. He was part of the staff that helped the 2021 Bengals reach the Super Bowl. His current job title is Senior Personnel Executive.

Thomas Dimitroff

Dimitroff certainly has a lot of familiarity with Robert and Jonathan Kraft. He was the New England Patriots Director of College Scouting from 2003-to-2007. Those drafts provided the Patriots with players such as Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Benjamin Watson, Ty Warren, and Stephen Gostkowski, among others.

Thomas Dimitroff left New England to become GM of the Atlanta Falcons, where he twice won NFL Executive of the Year. He also led them to an NFC Championship, falling just short of a Super Bowl (think 28-3). He held the general manager in Atlanta for 13 seasons (2008-to-2020). Dimitroff has been out of the NFL for the past three seasons, but not out of football. The 57-year old has been CEO of SummerSports, which is dedicated to football analytics. He could be a good combination of the old and new in New England.

Matt Groh

One of the two in-house candidates in New England is Head of Player Personnel Matt Groh. The question that needs to be answered by the Krafts is which decisions belonged to Bill Belichick and which were at the behest of Matt Groh. Belichick had final say over all decisions, but was he vetoing good suggestions from Groh or going along with them? It might be easier to start fresh than try to figure out those answers.

Groh has been with the Patriots for 13 years. He climbed up the ranks from scouting assistant, to area scout, to national scout, to College Scouting Director in 2021. Robert Kraft has stated that drafting better was a priority, so again it comes down to who Beliehick was responsible for drafting as opposed to how the selections would have looked with Groh in charge.

Scott Pioli

Could the GM who helped bring the New England Patriots their first three Lombardi Trophies return to Foxboro? Probably not. However, bringing Pioli in as a “Senior Advisor” or something of the like should certainly be on the table. He has a relationship with the Kraft family, helping them win a few rings. He has also worked with several other candidates listed here.

Scott Pioli was an assistant GM under Dimitroff in Atlanta (2014-to-2019). He was also the VP of Player Personnel in New England when Trey Brown was a scout for the Patriots. He also has relationships with candidates listed below. Pioli coming back to New England could be an attractive option, even if he’s not the boss in the front office.

Jon Robinson

When Jon Robinson was fired as GM of the Tennessee Titans, it did not make a ton of sense. The Titans seemed to overachieve in his tenure there. However, there were some questionable moves by the end of his tenure, most notably the trade of A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Despite having seven years of experience as an NFL general manager, Robinson is still just 47-years old. He had a long tenure in New England, working for the franchise from 2002-to-2013. He was the Assistant Director of College Scouting in 2008, and Director of College Scouting from 2009-to-2013. Those drafts yielded players like Jerod Mayo, Matthew Slater, Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins.

Mike Vrabel

A New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee as a player, Vrabel has no front office experience. In this scenario, Vrabel would hold the title of “Head of Football Operations” while still having a GM of his choosing under him. The options to be general manager in this scenario could expand to personnel mean Vrabel worked with in Tennessee, such as Ryan Cowden and Chad Brinker.

As Bill Belichick stated, there needs to be somebody to make the final decisions with a franchise. Mike Vrabel could be that man. He would also serve as a figurehead for the team, as his ability to speak on behalf of the front office would be welcomed. The Kraft family clearly think highly of Vrabel. It is possible that the former Tennessee head coach would prefer landing another coaching position, but the idea of him running the show in New England, with others under him to take of the daily minutiae, should not be discarded.

Eliot Wolf

Along with Matt Groh, Eliot Wolf would be the New England Patriots other in-house candidate for the job. At 41-years old, Wolf would is one of the youngest candidates on this list. He has been with New England since 2020. Wolf has been in NFL front offices for two decades, despite his age. As the son of former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf, Eliot Wolf has been around the NFL his entire life.

As with Groh, the issue would be determining which decisions belonged to who in the Patriots front office. What did Belichick override? What makes Wolf a strong enough candidate to leapfrog Groh in the pecking order? Again, staying within the organization is attractive in certain ways, but a clean slate could be best for ownership unhappy with a lot of personnel decisions in recent years.