New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn’t waste any time filling the vacancy at head coach after the team, and future Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Belichick decided to mutually part ways on Thursday. Under 24 hours later, the team hired Jerod Mayo as their next head coach.
The team’s decision to announce the 37-year-old former linebacker as the Belichick successor came quicker than expected, especially with former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel out there and available.
But after multiple reports surfaced that there was a “firm, contractual succession plan in [his] prior contract” that was communicated to the NFL, the news isn’t surprising.
Now the question is, who does Kraft to as his next General Manager?
This is where things can get interesting. With Mayo now named the 15th head coach in franchise history, could all the smoke surrounding Vrabel and a possible return to New England be connected to him taking over GM duties?
Mike Vrabel had his eyes on full control of the Tennessee Titans
While speculation as to why Vrabel was fired is all over the place, an interesting nugget could be carved out from a report by Dianna Russini and Joe Rexrode of the Athletic that states that Vrabel did desire complete control of the roster during the hiring process to replace GM Jon Robinson before the 2023 NFL season.
“During the hiring process to replace GM Jon Robinson, who was fired by [Amy Adams] Strunk late last season, Vrabel made two comments to Strunk that created friction between them, three team or league sources said,” Russini wrote, via Titans Wire. “Vrabel wanted full control over the roster, saying that he’d earned it, and Strunk pointedly disagreed. Strunk has carried a belief over the years that head coaches shouldn’t have full control, pointing to the way things went for the Titans in the later years of Jeff Fisher’s tenure, and watching from afar the issues that transpired for the Patriots with Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien with the Texans.”
Tensions between Vrabel and Strunk generated when the team went on to hire Ran Carthon as general manager. According to the report, Vrabel shared his opinion that, although he liked Carthon, he felt the Titans' new GM should’ve been in more of an assistant GM role. After Vrabel’s firing, Carthon said the working relationship with Vrabel was good, but that didn’t ease tensions between Vrabel and Strunk who wasn’t pleased as to how Vrabel praised his former organization during his Patriots Hall of Fame celebration.
Vrabel, who has 3 Super Bowl rings as a player with the Patriots, gave a halftime speech during that celebration in which he had nothing but the highest compliments for the team. Obviously, that set up speculation at the time as to whether Vrabel would be in line to succeed Belichick. As far as head coach, that went to Mayo. But could Kraft have the newest Patriots Hall-of-Famer in his back pocket to succeed Belichick at the general manager level?
It would be an interesting twist that could benefit the New England Patriots and offer a bit of protection in Kraft’s decision to go with Mayo. With Vrabel’s coaching experience, he could not only help advise Mayo with football decisions, but his knowledge of the organization, along with Mayo’s, can help transcend the New England Patriots into the next chapter of winning football.
With other intriguing coaching opportunities out there, one must wonder if Mike Vrabel has his eyes on something higher. That something higher is currently sitting vacant in New England, a place where he played, a place where he won, and a place where he labeled “a special place.”