FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 17: New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo looks on from the sideline next to head coach Bill Belichik during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Patriots Chose The Wrong Former Player To Replace Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots chose the wrong former player to take over for Bill Belichick, taking Jerod Mayo over Mike Vrabel.

ESPN's Adam Schefter posted via X on Friday morning, a day after Belichick stepped down, that Mayo would be taking over as head coach.

Let's get one thing straight; this isn't a Jerod Mayo hit piece.

He was a fantastic Patriot, an All-Pro who anchored the defense during some really challenging seasons. He's also done some awesome work with the team as a coach since 2019, helping to get some great performances out of the team's linebackers. The familiarity with the organization and its current players will really help ease the transition from the team's longtime leader into its next era. That being said, while he isn't a bad choice, he isn't the best possible hire out of everyone available.

Patriots fans would have been perfectly fine with the team elevating Mayo to the position of head coach. Mayo is building a great profile and appears to be an awesome football mind. However, it's really hard to fathom why he was chosen over Mike Vrabel, another Patriots legend who won a few rings in New England, and has a strong head coaching record, going 54-45 with three postseason appearances in Tennessee.

After just one year as a  defensecoordinator with the Houston Texans, Vrabel was handed the reins in Tennessee and he ran with the opportunity. In just his second season, he got Tennessee back to the playoffs, and did the unthinkable in his postseason head coaching debut, knocking off the Patriots in Foxborough, ending Tom Brady's New England tenure.

Vrabel's defensive scheme then snuffed out MVP Lamar Jackson, before finally losing a tough one to the Chiefs, just a step away from an unthinkable Super Bowl appearance. While Vrabel never got another playoff win in Tennessee, he did get the Titans to the AFC's top seed in 2021, in a conference featuring the likes of the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, Joe Burrow's Bengals, Josh Allen's Bills and more, before injuries took their toll in the postseason.

The past two seasons have been rough for Tennessee, leading to Vrabel's firing, but after his roster was stripped down to the studs, leaving him only with aging veterans, how exactly can he be blamed?

Mayo could very well be the next great Patriots head coach. Robert Kraft has yet to work with a head coach that isn't an all-time great. He inherited Bill Parcells, then brought in Pete Carroll, who eventually gave way to Belichick. Maybe Patriots fans should trust the team's venerable leadership, but when a top head coach becomes available, and he's also a former Patriot who played under Belichick, it's hard to imagine why Vrabel didn't get a call.

Given the cadence of Mayo's elevation less than a day after the Belichick news, it's highly probable that the decision has been made for quite some time. In fact, there's buzz that Mayo's contract had a clause that guaranteed that he would be Belichick's successor.

The question remains; why?

The New England head coaching position is an incredibly desirable one, and the team probably should not have limited its options. If that contract clause is real, Kraft just might be kicking himself for backing the team into a corner when someone like Vrabel turned out to be available.

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