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New England Patriots Linebackers Coach Candidates



New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) watches during an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The New England Patriots defensive coaching staff is nearly complete. At least four coaches have been locked up for the 2024 season, three of whom return from last season. But with Jerod Mayo’s promotion to head coach and Steve Belichick departing to become defensive coordinator at the University of Washington, the Patriots have yet to replace last year’s two linebackers coaches.

Mayo (inside linebackers) and Belichick (outside linebackers) had been in those roles since 2020. The last season New England had only one linebackers coach was 2018 when Brian Flores held the position.

DeMarcus Covington is the New England Patriots new defensive coordinator, following his promotion from defensive line coach. Jerry Montgomery came over from Green Bay to coach the defensive line. Brian Belichick (safeties) and Mike Pelligrino (cornerbacks) were recently reported to be returning. Defensive assistant Keith Jones, who mostly worked with the defensive line, is believed to be coming back as well.

So who will be New England’s next linebackers coach or coaches? Unlike the offensive side of the ball, there are not as many candidates with ties to Patriots executive Eliot Wolf. Of those who do, Scott McCurley is the linebackers coach with the Dallas Cowboys, while others are out of the NFL altogether.

Five potential candidates could make solid hires as linebackers coaches for the New England Patriots.

Dont’a Hightower

According to Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower does have an open invitation to join the Patriots staff if he wants to transition into coaching. Hightower played his entire NFL career (2012-2021) in New England. He has a handful of championship rings, having won two National Championships at Alabama and three Super Bowls with the Patriots. Hightower is a former teammate of Mayo’s. He took over as team captain when Mayo was done playing. Although he has no coaching experience, he would be a popular pick in the mold of Mayo himself. Perhaps he could bring a former teammate like Jamie Collins along as well.

Michael Hodges

Hodges was one of the candidates interviewed for the defensive coordinator position, which went to Covington. He worked alongside Covington as co-defensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois in 2016. Michael Hodges has been with New Orleans for his entire NFL coaching career (2017-to-Present). The 37-year-old has been the Saints linebackers coach since 2020. Demario Davis and Pete Werner both had big years at linebacker for the Saints under his watch. However, it is possible the Patriots’ opening would be viewed as just a lateral move.

Tem Lukabu

Like Hodges, Tem Lukabu was one of the candidates interviewed to be DC in New England. The 42-year-old has NFL experience in San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Carolina. He served as the Boston College defensive coordinator from 2020-to-2022. Lukabu was with the Panthers this past season, working with Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos, among others. Carolina replaced their head coach but retained defensive coordinator Ejiro Evers. It is believed the Panthers want to retain Lukabu as outside linebackers coach.

Tim McGarigle

McGarigle only spent one season in the NFL. He was a defensive quality control coach with the Green Bay Packers in 2017. He returned to Northwestern, his alma mater, in 2018 and has remained there since. After serving as linebackers for five seasons, McGarigle has been promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2024 season. It is unlikely McGarigle is looking to move unless he simply desires a return to the NFL.

Winston Moss

Although he has not coached in the NFL since 2018, Moss has 20 years of NFL coaching experience. The last 13 of these (2006-2018) were spent with the Green Bay Packers, most of which overlapped with Eliot Wolf. After Mike McCarthy was fired by the Packers in 2018, Moss accepted a job as a head coach and general manager of the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL. The 58-year-old Moss was the assistant head coach in his final two seasons in Green Bay. He could make a successful pairing with an inexperienced option like Hightower.

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