With Bill Belichick's future in New England apparently in flux, the speculation about who could potentially be his replacement is starting to pick up steam heading into the final games of the season. Although most appear on board with Robert Kraft relieving Belichick of his duties, the idea of finding a suitable replacement is daunting, with no clear answer to settle those fears.
The presumed choice would be Jerod Mayo, who the organization has appeared to be grooming for the role in recent years. It looked like the linebacker's coach would take over for Belichick whenever he chose to retire, and at 71 years old, it seemed like it would be sooner rather than later.
But that move is starting to be doubted by Patriots insiders and reporters as we near the end of the season, with Boston Sports Journal's Greg Bedard being the latest to add his hesitancy to believe Mayo is the guy in a piece published on Thursday.
He suggested that Belichick may not make the seemingly inevitable breakup easy for Kraft to maneuver and also revealed that Mayo may not be the best choice to replace him nor a hire the Patriots owner would typically choose.
Bedard also seemed to re-open what appeared to be a slammed-shut door by the Titans when the Mike Vrabel rumors began to swirl over the last month, suggesting the recent Patriots Hall of Famer is not happy in Tennessee and could potentially force his way out if the job opened up in New England.
"Look at the Krafts’ track record of hiring head coaches. As limited as it is, they ended up with two Hall of Fame coaches (Carroll, Belichick). Why wouldn’t they stick with that formula? Both had long track records as strong defensive coordinators (two different teams each) and had experience as a head coach (Carroll had one year with the Jets). Mayo doesn’t fit that profile at all.
You know who would? Mike Vrabel. If you were drawing a line from the Krafts’ past hiring to their next one, Vrabel would be the ideal candidate. And yet another league source told me this week of Vrabel that ‘(I) don’t think he’s happy’ in Tennessee."
Kraft has undoubtedly struck gold in his head coaching hires since buying the team in 1994, and based on the turnover of coaches around the league, it's a one-in-a-million chance to get that lucky twice. It puts even more pressure on his next hire, whoever that may be, and now his favorite target in Vrabel could be available, making the whole situation much easier to figure out.
The problem is, how reliable is this source claiming he's unhappy with the Titans?
Obviously, the team isn't going to reveal any possible cracks within the staff in response to the rumors, but before the chatter of Kraft's preference, there was no indication of issues between Vrabel and the team.
So, is this just an attempt to add more smoke to the speculation? Or could it actually lead us to a fire? Time will tell.