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Evaluating 5 New England Patriots coaching candidates to replace Bill Belichick

New England Patriots coaching candidates

The New England Patriots have the best NFL dynasty ever thanks to head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. With New England suddenly one of the worst teams in football, it’s time to start evaluating Patriots coaching candidates.

How New England reached this point no longer matters to the debate. The bottom line is that the Patriots have rapidly deteriorated, making the playoffs just once in the last four seasons. Belichick’s decisions as a coach and general manager have made this one of the NFL’s worst teams and now it’s time for changes. A new report suggests that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has already made the decision to move on from Belichick after the 2023 season.

Related: NFL coaching hot seat 2023

Let’s examine five New England Patriots coaching candidates.

Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots defensive assistant

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every list of Patriots coaching candidates starts with Jerod Mayo. A few years ago, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was favored to be Belichick’s successor. After he landed in Houston then was fired, Josh McDaniels emerged as the odds-on favorite to become the next Patriots’ coach. Now, there’s no question Mayo is leading the list of candidates owner Robert Kraft will look at.

The signs are already there. Mayo has already gone through head-coaching interviews with multiple teams in recent years, becoming a preferred candidate for several clubs. However, the 37-year-old opted against doing any interviews in 2023, instead signing a contract extension with the Patriots.

New England’s announcement of the Mayo extension was done in a press release and through social media, which is unusual for a normally tight-lipped organization. Once the deal was signed, the Patriots started integrating Mayo into meetings with executives, scouts and the analytics department. Many of the things that first-year coaches experience for the first time, New England is putting him on a crash course through now.

All of that is just the signs that Mayo is likely New England’s preferred choice. He’s also one of the top coaching candidates in the NFL today. In 2021, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network named him as one of the rising young coaches in the NFL. In his interview with the Philadelphia Eagles, Mayo reportedly ‘blew them out of the water‘ with his leadership, mind and overall presence during the lengthy interview. Teams that have had the opportunity to speak with Mayo come away with the same impression.

As linebackers coach, Mayo also proved instrumental in the development of players like Kahlani Tavai, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower. Lastly, he’s renowned for his work habits and intelligence, the qualities that are always found in great head coaches. If Mayo is hired, the next step for New England would be pairing with an experienced and proven offensive coordinator and hiring a true general manager.

Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders offensive coordinator

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Washington Commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Bieniemy isn’t for everyone. He’s gone through the hiring cycle multiple times now, with anonymous NFL executives pointing to a variety of reasons why he isn’t a head coach. Now that he’s proving himself away from the Kansas City Chiefs, this two-time Super Bowl winner is starting to erase one of the biggest hesitations teams had with him.

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings

As previously mentioned, Bieniemy does have a bit of a reputation for being intense. In August, Ron Rivera said Commanders’ players were struggling to adapt to their new coach’s edge when he works with anyone. While that might still be a knock for some teams, the entire Patriots’ locker room is used to that high-intensity environment where the head coach sets a hard-lined tone for everyone in the building.

Regarding Bieniemy’s qualifications and his reputation among those who know him, it’s extremely favorable. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes raving about his work ethic, football mind and his impact on the team. Kansas City’s players also specifically cited Bieniemy’s film study as a primary reason why they won Super Bowl 57.

New England enjoyed unprecedented success with a defensive-minded coach for two decades. If Kraft wants to keep the Patriots’ culture in place but find a more modern coach who has a demonstrated history of developing a quarterback and creating championship-caliber offenses, Bieniemy offers all of that. Once New England moves on from Belichick in the 2024 offseason, Bieniemy should be among the top Patriots coaching candidates.

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will get a second chance at being an NFL head coach. While many fans don’t like to see their favorite team target a coach who was fired, there are plenty of examples in the NFL of so-called ‘retread’ head coaches experiencing success thanks to a second chance.

Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Doug Pederson, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll and Todd Bowles all had previous stops where things ended badly and they were fired. Provided a fresh start, each of them made the most of it with Bowles the latest example early in the 2023 season.

Quinn wants to be an NFL head coach again and he’s made it clear he knows what part of his problem with the Atlanta Falcons was. He tried to do too many things, a mistake many first-time coaches make. Kraft could hire Quinn to both serve as New England’s defensive play-caller and to bring a new energy into the Patriots’ organization that would have a positive effect on everyone in the building.

NFL head coaches are like CEOs in many ways, with a strong culture and a positive working environment playing key roles in well-run organizations. At every stop of his NFL coaching career, everyone around Quinn has had phenomenal things to say about his character, leadership and ability to mentor and communicate with those around him.

Dallas Cowboys defense by seasonsPPG AllowedDefensive DVOAYards per Play Allowed
2020 (pre-Dan Quinn)29.6 (28th)23rd (6%)5.9 (23rd)
202121.1 (7th)2nd (-15.2%)5.5 (21st)
202220.1 (5th)2nd (-13,3%)5.1 (7th)
Statistics via Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders

Quinn’s an intriguing option for another reason. He would be very comfortable allowing Kraft to pick a general manager and they could collectively find the next Patriots’ offensive play-caller. All of that takes more of the weight off Quinn’s plate, allowing him to focus on New England’s defense and implementing a culture change in Foxborough.

Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans offensive coordinator

NFL: Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans Introductory Press Conference
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s unlikely New England rolls the device on a first-year offensive coordinator, Bobby Slowik of the Houston Texans is a name to stash away. He’s especially intriguing because of what he’s done this season with a rookie quarterback and an offensive line compromised of many backups early in the year.

Related: New England Patriots insider casts doubt on Mac Jones, Bill Belichick’s future

From Weeks 2-5, Houston’s offense averaged 294.5 passing yards per game with a perfect 8-0 TD-INT rate, a 105.8 QB rating and a 47.5% third-down conversion rate. Remarkably, despite the Texans’ offensive line missing so many starters, C.J. Stroud was only sacked six times and Houston ranked fourth in PFF’s Pass Blocking Efficiency.

Stroud certainly deserves a lot of credit for his record-breaking start, but Slowik’s play-calling and system are perfect examples of a coach making the most out of whatever he has. When compared to the league-worst Patriots’ offense, it’s a night-and-day difference and Slowik’s comments from the offseason help explain some of his success.

“Outside of that, a lot of our scheme fits are players, know how exactly that’s structured is independent of each organization and each unit, but we’re always going to work around who we have, and we’re going to make sure that what they excel at we put on tape for them and we make sure we showcase that.”

Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik

As for Slowik’s background, it’s extremely impressive. The 36-year-old started his coaching career as a defensive assistant in Washington (2011-’13), where he caught Kyle Shanahan’s attention. Weeks after becoming the 49ers’ head coach, Shanahan hired Slowik.

He started in San Francisco as a defensive quality control coach (2017-’18) before being named offensive assistant (2019-’20). He worked right alongside Shanahan, including as an offensive pass game specialist (2021) then as the passing game coordinator (2022).

New England’s offense will need to be completely overhauled in 2024, likely including a new quarterback and offensive linemen. Slowik’s resume is on the smaller side, but everything he’s doing this year in Houston is precisely what the Patriots are missing.

Brian Flores, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

New England will part ways with Belichick, but it’s also clear that doesn’t mean the team will blow up its entire identity. While Brian Flores burned some bridges as the Miami Dolphins head coach, he also won far more games than anyone expected from a rebuilding team. More importantly, his work as a defensive mind is almost unparalleled.

The 42-year-old began his coaching career as a special teams assistant, learning the ropes from Belichick beginning in 2008. He worked up to serving as an assistant with both the offense and defense, then specialized on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did he oversee one of the best defensive eras in Patriots’ history, he’s replicated that success with the Minnesota Vikings.

MIN Vikings defense (2022)25.4 (30th)391.1 (31st)5.9 (30th)-104 (26th)
MIN Vikings defense (2023)18.6 (5th)311.2 (10th)4.9 (8th)27.46 (6th)
NFL statistics as of Week 15

Importantly, New England would also know what it’s getting with Flores. Kraft could hand-pick a new general manager, while also influencing the decision on the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. It leaves Flores to handle head-coaching duties and the defense, both of which he’s well-qualified for.

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