The Tom Brady succession plan has been settled in Foxboro, but the same can’t be said for head coach Bill Belichick. If there is a plan, it’s muddy. To the public, anyway.
Good news is they seem to have multiple strong candidates internally. Perhaps offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has long been promised the job once Bill is ready to retire, and that’s why he pulled a Montreal Screwjob on the Indianapolis Colts. But if he isn’t, there should still be an opportunity for McDaniels (outside of Indiana, of course) to take on a new challenge as a head coach, if there’s mutual interest.
So, if it’s not McDaniels, the question is who? There are obvious answers, but there’s a less obvious name, one that actually might be a flight risk: inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. He’s on a new list compiled by NFL insider Tom Pelissero as a head coach candidate to watch, particularly among those under age 45.
Mayo is actually closer to 35 to 45. He’s 35. Believe it or not, Mayo was only 29 years old when he retired from pro football after the 2015 season. Four years later, he joined the Patriots as their new inside linebackers coach. He’s gaining a reputation around the league for his leadership, and already interviewed for a head coach job when he met with the Eagles in January. So Mayo looks like he’s on a similar trajectory to Brian Flores, who went straight from linebackers coach to head coach when he left the Pats for the Dolphins.
The list also gives an honorable mention of sorts to Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley. One can assume that Caley has done a hell of a job getting Hunter Henry up to speed and prepared for games, because Henry has been a red zone monster and consistently reliable target for rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Here’s a photo of Caley, yelling at the refs about some goo on his hands:
Now, let’s circle back to another key question in this mystery: what about Steve Belichick? Would the Krafts let Bill hand the head coaching job down to his son? The only way to avoid that being a tough look would be for the Patriots to look exactly the same under Steve as it did under Bill, if not better. What are the odds of that?
Ultimately, Steve would probably be better off getting his first head coaching experience elsewhere than he would if he had to succeed his father, and coach the Patriots while Bill is simultaneously getting a bust in Canton. McDaniels and Mayo seem more likely as immediate successors. But Mayo is sounding like more and more of a flight risk.
For now, Bill remains entrnched as the lead dog, and the 6-4 Patriots have looked more like a Belichickian squad over the course of their recent four-game winning streak. So let’s worry about the succession plan when it’s more imminent.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at email@example.com.