The Next Patriots Head Coach

New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears
Credit: Getty Images North America

This isn’t a “fire Bill Belichick” article, but rather “when this dynasty is over, who would you like to see replace Bill and start a new chapter of Patriots football?”

Tom Brady is 41 years old, and tied to this team indefinitely.  If the Patriots had kept Jimmy G, and moved on from Tom Brady after last season, I could have seen Belichick staying on for a longer amount of time.  However, with Brady staying, I think once he is done, Bill will be fired/move on… or that will happen before Brady is done.  I no longer think he will outlast Tom.

At 66, Bill could still have a long life in football, but lets just assume that the end of Brady’s career is in sight, and after that, the Patriots (and Bill) would like to transition into the future.

I do not think this will happen after this season, but nevertheless, when that day comes, these are the people I would like to see be considered to replace the greatest coach in the history of football.

Jim Harbaugh

Maryland vs. Michigan
Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

The former QB was arguably a top 5 coach in the NFL when he was with the 49ers from 2011 to 2014.  He led the team to the NFC Championship Game each of his first three seasons with the team, and in Year 2, San Francisco was in the red zone with a chance to win a Super Bowl.  He was 36-11-1 those first three years, but in Year 4, the 49ers went 8-8, and the intrigue of the Michigan job (his alma mater) led to Harbaugh leaving.  A 69% winning percentage (nice) as an NFL coach is nothing to sneeze at, and at 54 years old, he’s young enough to come back to the NFL and build his own program from scratch.

It would take a special set of circumstances to lure Harbaugh from Michigan, a job that he could probably stay at for the next 20 years.  Does the challenge of replacing Bill Belichick intrigue Harbaugh like going back and fixing Michigan did?  If it does, then if I were the Krafts, I would hire him in a heartbeat.

Brian Flores

New England Patriots Practice
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If you want a successor to Bill Belichick who took a path a lot like Bill Belichick to get to where he is, it’s Brian Flores.  Flores, 37, began receiving head coaching consideration last offseason when he was interviewed by the Arizona Cardinals for their vacancy.  Although he did not get the job, Flores ultimately was promoted to de facto Defensive Coordinator when Matt Patricia left to coach the Detroit Lions.

Flores has been a member of the Patriots organization since 2004, and has served various roles for the team.  He was part of the scouting department through 2007, and has been a coach since 2008.  Belichick likes coaches who do a lot, and is known to give young assistants a chance to prove themselves by doling out an absurd amount of work for them.  Flores would not still be here if he had not proven himself to Professor Belichick, and I think that is extremely encouraging.

Belichick assistants do not have the best track record as head coaches, but I think Flores’ experience as a scout is unique, as that is something no other assistant that has become a head coach under Belichick has done.  Bill takes the CEO role for this team, and part of that is scouting, finding the best allocation of talent in relation to given assets, Flores may have an edge in that department due to his past experience.

If Bill were to relinquish his head coaching position to become the GM/president of the team, Flores may be a logical successor due to his skill set; it would be a relationship similar to the one Belichick had with Scott Pioli.

Matt Campbell

West Virginia v Iowa State
Credit: David Purdy/Getty Images North America

This is my Brad Stevens hire if I’m New England.  Campbell, 37, has been a head coach since the end of the 2011 college football season.  He coached Toledo for four full seasons (plus one game in 2011), going 35-15.  He then was hired by Iowa State in 2016, and is currently 17-18 in his two-plus seasons there.  Iowa State isn’t exactly a football factory, and the last time they had a non-interim coach have a winning percentage above 40% was the 1980s.  Campbell was 3-9 his first year with the Cyclones, but has gone 14-9 since, a swing in the right direction.

“I don’t want to start putting bugs in people’s ears because I don’t want him to go anywhere, but he would transition into the league excellently — very, very well,”

-Ellis Hobbs (April 14)

Campbell has people believing he could make the jump to the NFL, including former Patriot Ellis Hobbs.

NFL reporter Albert Breer has connected Campbell to the Cleveland Browns vacancy, and it seems like his name will only rise in future years.

The reason I make the Brad Stevens analogy is that when Danny Ainge hired Stevens from Butler in 2013, NO ONE saw it coming.  Stevens was a phenomenal coach at Butler, but at the age of 36, it did not seem like the NBA was happening anytime soon.  If anything, he would coach at Butler until a bigger collegiate program (maybe UCLA) offered him a job, and then he would stay there for the long haul.  But the NBA, it was a stunning decision… one that has worked perfectly.

If the Patriots want to play their Brad Stevens card, looking for a young college coach who has proven their self at a school with less recruiting reach, and where the ability to coach better than your peers becomes that much more vital, Campbell might be the perfect guy.

And Campbell already has impressed New England before, to the point that he was offered a job by the franchise while he was a grad assistant at Bowling Green.

Dabo Swinney

Wake Forest v Clemson
Credit: Tyler Smith/Getty Images North America

I know, lots of college coaches, but I get weary watching the coaching cycle year-after-year, seeing all these promising coaches become first-time coaches, only to flame out.  I know, you have to start somewhere (even Bill did), but some of these college head coaches have had the chance to establish a program where they’re in charge, and I think it could translate.

Dabo Swinney is one of them.

Dabo got the interim position at Clemson in 2008, with that tag being removed after a 4-3 finish to the season. Since then, Swinney has built Clemson into a juggernaut, a level just behind that of Alabama and Nick Saban.  Since 2015, Clemson is 53-4, and has made the CFP three straight seasons (with a fourth appearance looking likely).  Once again, not a historic institution in college football, Clemson has reached an elite status BECAUSE of Swinney, and with him there, they are a perennial championship contender.

He has been tied to Alabama (his alma mater), a school he got his coaching start at.  Replacing Nick Saban and going back to his old school might be the only way he would leave Clemson, but would replacing Bill Belichick present a similar sway?

Swinney is not typically connected to NFL jobs, but after so much success in the college ranks, and a now consistent trend of producing NFL-caliber talent, Swinney would probably need the right offer to consider leaving a potential lifetime position.

Swinney is about to turn 49, and if he wants to make that jump, it does not have to be soon.  And if it did not work out in New England in the short term, he could go back to the college ranks, possibly to replace Nick Saban.

I respect coaches who build up programs the way Swinney has, and I think he warrants a look.

Josh McDaniels

New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America

Thought I was gonna forget him, didn’t you?

At 42 years old, McDaniels has already lived quite the coaching life.  He helped guide the Patriots and Tom Brady through the dark days of 2006, and then helped call the prolific 2007 offense that broke numerous records at the time.  In 2008, when Brady went down, he helped Matt Cassel steer the ship, and all of that earned him a head coaching position in Denver at the ripe age of 32.

Things did not work well.

McDaniels was 11-17 in Denver before being fired during his second year.

He found his way back to New England in time for the 2011 postseason, and was named the Offensive Coordinator yet again in 2012.

He has helped Tom Brady age gracefully, winning two Super Bowls in his second stint in New England.

He had accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, but just two days after Super Bowl LII, he backed out… student becomes master.

McDaniels is a talented coach, but I sometimes worry if he is a product of Tom Brady.  His first tenure did not end well, but neither did Belichick’s.  After Belichick was fired in 1995, he became the associate head coach (Dwight Schrute) of the Patriots in 1996, working under Bill Parcells.  After one season, he follwed Parcells to the Jets for three seasons.  Although he was about to be named the head coach of the Jets in 2000, he backed out, leaving the team for New England.

McDaniels backed out and stayed (as opposed to Bill), so maybe that is a sign that he was given a “wink wink” type of deal to replace Belichick.  The media can say what they want, but there is no other reason he would have come back in my eyes.

McDaniels would be the replacement if Bill is forced out of New England, and I do not think he would be Bill’s first choice (he’d be Tom’s first choice), but I think McDaniels could have enough sway with ownership that they could view him as the successor.

Hopefully the infrastructure Bill has created since 2000 is strong enough for McDaniels to step into (because I have the least amount of faith in him starting from scratch), otherwise, without Brady, I do not know how long he would last without a strong support system.

Nick Caserio

Image result for nick caserio
Credit: via Boston Globe

This would be an outside the box hire, but hear me out.

Nick Caserio is the current director of player personnel, and has been with New England since 2001.  Caserio, 42, attended John Carroll, a liberal arts school in Ohio that has produced people tied to football such as Josh McDaniels (he and Caserio were teammates on the football team there), Jags GM Dave Caldwell, Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, and Ravens assistant Greg Roman.

He is essentially the de facto GM, but has played a role in all aspects of the team.  He was listed as a coach in 2002 and 2007, and is often seen with the coaches in the press box on gamedays.

He has left his mark on the Patriots’ operation over the years, and with that institutional knowledge, he could very well be able to apply it on the field.  This would be like when Herm Edwards went to coach Arizona State, being the face of recruiting while the former coordinators remained, but the NFL version.

Maybe Caserio would be better off running the front office and picking a coach after Belichick were to leave, but I think this would be a fascinating scenario, one that 98.5 The Sports Hub producer James Stewart has thrown out there before.

If the Patriots want to be innovative with their next hire – letting the man who already has a lot of control of the team operation take full control – Caserio should be your first call.

Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14) 

Author: Nick Collins

Boston sports fan sharing his love for sports and perspectives as a fan

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