Report: ‘Off the rails’ season has Robert Kraft rethinking Bill Belichick succession plan

Report: ‘Off the rails’ season has Robert Kraft rethinking Bill Belichick succession plan

Patriots

“Make no mistake: It’s ugly there right now. People I’ve spoken to with the organization paint a miserable picture.”

Bill Belichick after the Patriots’ win over the Steelers. AP Photo/Matt Freed

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There is a “growing belief” around the NFL that Bill Belichick will not be the Patriots’ head coach next year, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

Graziano said based on past experiences covering coaching legends Don Shula, Joe Torre, and Tom Coughlin, as well as conversations with people inside the Patriots organization that he doesn’t expect Belichick to be fired.

He expects that it will be the team’s decision to move on, and that Belichick will disagree with it, but ultimately an announcement will be made attempting to honor Belichick before moving on.

That’s what happened with each of the three aforementioned coaches, Graziano said.

“This is my expectation for what happens at the end of the season in New England,” Graziano wrote. “Based on multiple conversations with people in and around the building. Make no mistake: It’s ugly there right now. People I’ve spoken to with the organization paint a miserable picture. The Patriots haven’t just been losing — they have generally been non-competitive on offense.”

“Imagine how hard it is to motivate a defense to play after giving up six points and losing,” one source told Graziano.

Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is among the top candidates to take over as head coach after Belichick is gone, according to the report.

“Sources close to the Patriots believe Kraft’s plan entering this season was for Belichick to coach two more seasons and have Mayo take over in 2025,” Graziano added. “Belichick entered the season needing 18 wins to catch Shula for most career victories (regular season and postseason combined) among NFL coaches, and the thought was he could get that done in two seasons.”

But with the Patriots 3-10 and the season having gone “off the rails,” Kraft is considering retooling his plan, according to Graziano. Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who was recently inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, was mentioned as another candidate New England may pursue.

“Multiple sources in and around the building say Mayo taking over next year is the most likely outcome,” Graziano wrote. “Though others are no longer certain that’s the way Kraft will go. Mayo would have to sell Kraft on who will be in charge of the offense, the quarterback’s development, and personnel. That could all happen and work out in Mayo’s favor, but it doesn’t sound like it’s a 100% sure thing.”

The report comes not long after NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran reported that the decision to move on from Belichick has already been made.

Belichick answered each question about his future on Wednesday with some variation of “I’m getting ready for the Chiefs.”

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