New England Patriots fans have to start really wondering how much longer Bill Belichick will be on the sidelines.
New England is in the first year of the post-Tom Brady era, and Belichick is doing all he can to keep the Patriots alive in the AFC playoff race. But the New England Patriots have various problems ahead of them, including rising teams in Buffalo and Miami.
Could the next few weeks be Belichick’s final ones with the Patriots — and if so, who should replace the legendary head coach?
Bill Belichick and the Patriots are in a tough spot
The New England Patriots have won two straight games and are still alive in the AFC playoff race at 4-5.
That is the good news for Bill Belichick. The bad news is that the Patriots have a very difficult schedule ahead, and the challenges abound in the post-Tom Brady era may be too strong for them to overcome this year.
New England has seven games remaining, and four are against teams with winning records. That includes a Week 15 trip to the Miami Dolphins and an AFC East Division showdown with Josh Allen and the Bills a week later.
New England has made the postseason every year since 2009. At this point, the Patriots are just trying to avoid finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2000.
Belichick insists he’ll return for the 2021 season
Bill Belichick is fully aware of the problems the Patriots have, both in the short and long-term.
In Belichick’s own words, New England “sold out” to win three Super Bowls in the 2010s. Many of the Patriots’ draft picks haven’t panned out and the team survived as long as they did because of Tom Brady.
However, Brady is now in Tampa Bay, and the Patriots are treading water with Cam Newton at quarterback.
Belichick hasn’t discussed retirement this year, and has insisted he wants to keep coaching for as long as possible. When asked in September about gambling odds that he wouldn’t be the head coach, Belichick said his priority was the game ahead.
Belichick turns 69 in April 2021. His former defensive coordinator, current Houston Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel, became the oldest head coach in NFL history earlier this year.
Crennel turned 73 in June.
If Bill Belichick retires, who should replace him?
Whenever Bill Belichick retires, his successor will be tasked with replacing one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.
Here are some coaches the New England Patriots should pursue if Belichick calls it quits after this season:
- Bill O’Brien, former Houston Texans head coach: O’Brien coached in New England from 2007-11 and went 52-48 in six-plus seasons with the Texans. New England would be wise to only make O’Brien the head coach, though, so any moves similar to the DeAndre Hopkins fiasco can be avoided.
- Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator: Leftwich is a rising star in coaching circles and seems destined to land a head coaching job soon. The New England Patriots have never had a Black head coach.
- Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator: Brady is still only 31, but he won the Broyles Award as the best assistant coach at LSU last year. Carolina’s offense hasn’t lit the world on fire this year, however, and Brady’s age could work against him here.
- Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots offensive coordinator: McDaniels has long been considered Belichick’s eventual successor. But should the Patriots be worried about how much of a role McDaniels may have played in how inconsistent New England’s offense has been the last two years.
- Steve Belichick, New England Patriots outside linebackers coach: Steve, as you guessed, is Bill Belichick’s son. Steve has been on staff since 2012, and the Patriots’ defense has always been productive.
As of now, Patriots fans should expect to see Belichick roaming the sidelines next year. But things can change very quickly, and if the end is approaching, those same fans should prepare for the beginning of the end.