Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Patriots Head Coach Candidates After Bill Belichick Steps Down

For the first time since the turn of the century there will be a new head coach roaming the New England Patriots' sideline in 2024, after the organization parted ways with Bill Belichick on Thursday, but it's unclear who the next head coach will be.

Belichick oversaw an unprecedented run of success in the NFL, building a dynasty around future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady en route to winning six Super Bowls. However, Belichick's tenure in New England comes to an end after going just 29-38 since Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl away from Patriot Place.

It will be fascinating to watch the direction Robert Kraft and the Patriots' coaching search takes, especially whether New England opts for a replacement with ties to the organization or a fresh voice and new philosophies from the outside.

Here's a look at five top candidates to replace Bill Belichick as Patriots head coach:

Jerod Mayo, Patriots Linebackers Coach

Mayo has been linked to the Patriots' top job for months, and might be the candidate atop Kraft's wish list.

"There's no ceiling on his ability to be a head coach," Kraft recently told reporters. Mayo recently signed a long-term contract extension with the Patriots and seems well liked by his players. Hiring Mayo would retain some continuity to Belichick and his philosophies, which could be viewed as a positive and a negative, especially given how the past two seasons have gone in New England and the lack of success Belichick assistants have seen as head coaches around the league.

Mike Vrabel, Former Titans Head Coach

Foxborough, MA - November 28: Titans head coach Mike Vrabel (right) has what was an extremely quick handshake with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (left) following the game. The New England Patriots host the Tennessee Titans in a regular season NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Nov. 28, 2021.

Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prior to his dismissal as Tennessee Titans head coach, reports surfaced that Vrabel eyed the Patriots job, should it come open. Vrabel led the Titans to three postseason appearances during his career, boasting a 5-2 playoff record. After playing eight seasons under Belichick for the Patriots, Vrabel's player-friendly approach and ultra-competitive personality could make him an attractive option for the Patriots. However, the fact that Vrabel's experience comes from the defensive side of the ball, similar to Belichick's, might not be the kind of sea-change Kraft is looking for.

Bobby Slowik, Texans Offensive Coordinator

Slowik has been a part of a historic turnaround with the Houston Texans, alongside head coach DeMeco Ryans and former Patriots Personnel Executive and current Texans general manager Nick Caserio. Given that the Patriots will likely select a top quarterback prospect with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, it would make sense for New England to hire an offensive coordinator with a track record for developing young passers. As a rookie, playing under Slowik, C.J. Stroud played his way into the MVP conversation by passing for 4,108 yards with 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions while leading the AFC South title. Pairing Slowik with a rookie quarterback with upside may prove a winning combination for the Patriots.

Ben Johnson, Lions Offensive Coordinator

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 24: Ben Johnson offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions looks on during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Ben Johnson will likely be the most coveted coaching candidate this hiring cycle, and for good reason, after the Detroit Lions' run of success on offense the past two seasons. Thanks to a scheme that creates opportunities for running backs both as downhill runners and receivers out of the backfield, exploiting the middle of the field with dominant tight ends and unique route concepts in the deep passing game, Johnson is viewed as an offensive innovator. The Patriots are going to need to overhaul the offensive side of the ball, and Johnson would inject some explosiveness into an organization that has fallen significantly behind its division rivals — and the times, particularly offensively.

Brian Flores, Vikings Defensive Coordinator

Flores remains entangled in a discrimination suit against the NFL, which could complicate his head coaching candidacies, but he has done a masterful job overseeing Minnesota's defense. With strong ties to Belichick and the Patriots organization, Flores is familiar with the blueprint that transformed the Patriots into one of the greatest dynasties in American sports. Kraft might need to weigh Flores' 24-25 record as Dolphins head coach against his success as a defensive coordinator and organization ties when it comes to the possibility of hiring him.

MORE: Bill Belichick's Potential Landing Spots After Leaving Patriots