The end of the Bill Belichick era in New England could be in the Patriots' final game of the season against the Jets in Week 18. It would be quite the fitting end for the man who became the best head coach in NFL history via trade from New York over twenty years ago.
And if it is indeed the end, who will be the one to step into Belichick's shoes for the 2024 season?
With just one game left until Robert Kraft is forced into making one of the toughest decisions of his career as the team owner, conversation about what Belichick's future may hold is starting to pick back up again. NFL insiders have refuted the reports suggesting that Kraft has already decided to fire him, claiming he has been "conflicted" about what he should do, while others have said Belichick feels like the end is near in recent weeks.
There is certainly a possibility that we see Belichick back next year to finish the remainder of his contract, maybe even without the general manager title, as some have suggested. But because no decision is imminent, more names have gained traction in NFL circles as possible candidates to replace Belichick.
A few have been tossed around throughout the season as the most likely choices to get the job if it is available, like Jerod Mayo to Mike Vrabel. But besides those favorites, not many others have been involved in any speculation about landing the gig.
That is, until now.
Two more familiar faces are considered potential replacements for Bill Belichick
Because we know the Patriots love to keep guys around that they know and like, hence the repetitive re-hires and why Mayo and Vrabel are atop the list for the job, more former New England coaches are said to be joining them on the short list of names.
The names were revealed in an article by Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport on Saturday night. They reiterated Belichick's desire to continue coaching, whether for the Patriots or elsewhere and noted that the level of respect between him and ownership essentially eliminates the idea of an outright firing.
But the last paragraph of the blurb on the Patriots caught most people's attention. Pelissero and Rapoport reveal that former coaches Brian Flores and Josh McDaniels are two names starting to circulate as options in recent weeks.
"If Belichick does move on, speculation has centered on (Jerod) Mayo as his successor. That’s not a guarantee, though, and other options — particular coaches with Patriots ties, such as Josh McDaniels or Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores — shouldn’t be ruled out."
Fans may not love it, especially since most who want Belichick gone have already decided they want a new face on the sidelines, but is it really that surprising to hear that Kraft may want a guy he knows and trusts to replace one of the longest-tenured head coaches in NFL history?
McDaniels feels like a no-brainer, not because he's proven not to be a very good head coach but because he appeared as the heir apparent for many years until he left to join the Raiders. On top of that, after his firing from Las Vegas, it was believed he would be back in Foxboro in short order. That didn't happen, but nothing has indicated it won't in the future.
The more fascinating choice is Flores, who had a memorable (and not in a good way) stint as the Dolphins head coach from 2019 - 2021. He spent nine years with the Patriots in various roles and was well-respected before his departure.
It will be interesting if there is any more credibility put behind their names over the next few weeks or even months since stories leaked out regarding Vrabel's availability and hit pieces were published about Mayo. It's another layer to the story that we'll need to pay attention to, at least until we know what is happening with Belichick.