Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots landed in a place that has been completely foreign to them for over two decades. As the 2023 season came to a close, the franchise found itself in last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2000 and arguably the worst team in the entire AFC. For Bill Belichick, it was the worst season of his head coaching career and has now led to both sides parting after 24 seasons. So, what now? What does the future in Foxborough look like in a post-Belichick world? Well, Robert Kraft will have his work cut out for him. 

Remember, the Patriots are now not only looking for a new head coach, but they also need a GM as Belichick also served as the head of the front office as well. With that in mind, we'll be filling two jobs with the assumption that New England opts for a more traditional masthead of one GM and one head coach as we start to picture what the organization will look like in Week 1 of the 2024 season. 

Let's take a look at a couple of paths that Kraft could go down now that he has parted ways with Belichick after this season and highlight some candidates for both jobs (top candidates marked in bold).

Familiar options

  • Jerod Mayo (head coach candidate)
  • Mike Vrabel (head coach candidate)
  • Brian Flores (head coach candidate)
  • Matt Groh (GM candidate)
  • Nick Caserio (GM candidate)
  • Dave Ziegler (GM candidate)
  • Jon Robinson (GM candidate)

While we'll get into a more out-of-the-box road Kraft could go down as he restructures his organization post-Belichick, he realistically might already have the pieces in place. Last offseason, the Patriots came out with an unprecedented statement that, in part, revealed that the team was in discussions with linebackers coach Jerod Mayo on an extension. Mayo, who has been a defensive play-caller for the Patriots for the last handful of years, has been pegged as a potential successor to Belichick with Kraft himself even saying this offseason that he is "definitely a strong candidate to be the heir apparent." That effort by ownership to retain him, along with Mayo forgoing any head coaching interviews last offseason, only added more smoke to that potential outcome. 

Mayo has been on Belichick's staff since 2019 and played his entire eight-year career under him in New England. If Kraft is looking for continuity to carry over from the previous era, albeit with a sprinkle of new blood, letting Mayo ascend to head coach is a way to achieve that. In the aftermath of Belichick parting ways with the organization, NFL Media also reported that Mayo is a strong candidate to replace him and adds that New England could hire him without going through a lengthy hiring process because it established a contractual succession plan. CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones points out the league rules that break down the contract provisions.

Another way would bringing aboard Mike Vrabel, who played under Belichick from 2001-2008. Tennessee fired Vrabel as their head coach following the 2023 season, but is still regarded as one of the top in-game coaches in the league and would certainly be a top option for New England given his relationship with the Kraft family. Either that or current Vikings DC Brian Flores -- a Belichick disciple -- could be another sleeper. 

In a similar vein, New England could simply promote director of player personnel Matt Groh to general manager and have the final say on roster-related decisions. Groh has been within the organization since 2011 and has been the director of player personnel since 2022. Again, if Kraft wants to keep the Belichickian culture intact, a Mayo-Groh combination would do that. Given that the arrow is pointing up for the Texans after selecting C.J. Stroud, it seems unlikely that Nick Caserio would want to leave Houston, but he had spent roughly two decades with the organization, giving him strong ties to Kraft. If he were to offer him total authority, it could be tempting. Dave Ziegler, who was fired by the Raiders this offseason, also has history with the Patriots (in the front office from 2013 to 2021) and could be a familiar face for Kraft as well. Ditto for former Titans GM Jon Robinson, who broke into the NFL with the Patriots in 2002 and was with the organization until 2013. 

Total masthead rebuild

  • Ben Johnson (head coach candidate)
  • Bobby Slowick (head coach candidate)
  • Jim Harbaugh (head coach candidate)
  • Shane Waldron (head coach candidate)
  • Brian Johnson (head coach candidate)
  • Mike Macdonald (head coach candidate)
  • Dan Quinn (head coach candidate)
  • Adam Peters (GM candidate)
  • Mike Borgonzi (GM candidate)
  • Ian Cunningham (GM candidate)

This is where things could get interesting. There is a world where Kraft decides to rip up the roots and plant something completely new in the form of a head coach and GM combination that has little to no ties to Belichick. 

If that's the case and the Patriots go with the trend of a young offensive-minded coach, Detroit's Ben Johnson will be a popular name that is brought up and could end up being the most sought-after head coaching candidate this cycle. Johnson has been the offensive coordinator with the Lions since 2022 and has been a hot name as a future head coach. Over the last two seasons, the Lions offense has been a top-10 unit and Johnson has helped stabilize Jared Goff's career with the QB notching a 97.9 passer rating over his tenure as OC. Houston's offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik also fits the mold. He's just 36 years old but has worked wonders with rookie QB C.J. Stroud and comes from the always-popular Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. If Kraft is looking for a young modern coach, Slowik makes sense. 

Seattle's Shane Waldron is another name to keep an eye on as he is a bit of a hybrid. He started in the NFL as an offensive quality control coach with the Patriots in 2008 and then was promoted to tight ends coach in 2009 before departing Foxborough. Since then, he's worked under Rams head coach Sean McVay up until taking the offensive coordinator job with the Seahawks in 2021. He helped Seattle's offense pop under Geno Smith in 2022, but the unit did take a step back in 2023. Still, he could be worth consideration. 

Suppose the Patriots opt for a defensive-minded coach. In that case, it'd make sense to simply have Mayo ascend, but if they are looking for a completely new presence Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and Dan Quinn in Dallas will likely get interviews this cycle. 

The home run swing for Kraft in his hunt for a replacement for Belichick could end up being Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. He's been flirting with the NFL over the past few offseasons and currently has the Wolverines playing for a national championship. If he decides to leave Ann Arbor for the NFL, he is a coach who would warrant instant credibility and has a résumé that includes a Super Bowl appearance. 

As for the front office, 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters is an intriguing name. Similar to Waldron, Adams could be looked at as a hybrid candidate. He broke into the NFL with the Patriots in 2003 as a scouting assistant and spent his final three seasons with the organization (2006-2008) as an area scout. Most recently, Peters has worked under John Lynch in San Francisco, a franchise that has perennially been in the Super Bowl conversation over the last few seasons. 

Mike Borgonzi, the assistant GM in Kansas City, is someone else worthy of consideration. The Chiefs have been the dominant team in the NFL in recent seasons, so draining some of that braintrust for New England's benefit would make sense. Borgonzi also has local ties as an Everett, Massachusetts native who was a four-year starter at Brown University. 

Is New England an attractive destination? 


The short answer is yes. The only reason why coaches may be apprehensive about taking this job is simply due to the guy they'd be replacing. Historically, you never want to follow up an icon. There are also some other opening that could be more attractive, particularly in L.A. with the Chargers already having a franchise QB in place in Justin Herbert. That said, the Patriots are well-positioned going forward which makes it an attractive spot for any potential head coaching and general manager candidate. 

This coming offseason, whoever is running the organization will have the No. 3 at the NFL Draft to help springboard the rebuild on top of the third-most cap space in the NFL. That's enough ammunition to find a new franchise quarterback (if they decide to permanently move off of Mac Jones) and build up a stable roster around that player. 

In general, the Patriots are a blue-chip organization with one of the league's top owners in Kraft. So long as whoever walks through those doors at 1 Patriot Place can endure the pressure of succeeding Belichick, this is a landing spot that is effectively a blank canvas with plenty of tools in the bag.