The Bill Belichick era is over. On Thursday morning, news broke that Belichick and the New England Patriots would be going their separate ways, bringing an end to a historic 24-year partnership that has brought six Super Bowl titles to New England. For the first time in nearly a quarter century, owner Robert Kraft will begin his search for a new head coach.
Filling the shoes left by Belichick will be a tall order for the next Patriots head coach, but New England holds the third overall draft pick and the third-most salary cap capital in the NFL this offseason. For a coach looking to have the ability to immediately custom build their roster, there is potential to do so in Foxborough. Kraft would be shrewd to emphasize this in the team's courting of head coaching candidates.
Kraft was insistent on solely addressing Belichick's tenure during his press conference on Thursday, deflecting any questions about the future of the team to a later date. Without providing clarity on the Patriots' future, it is unclear what the intentions of ownership are regarding retaining assistant coaches and front office personnel. Staffers were reportedly disappointed with the team's handling of Belichick's departure, as most found out via social media.
As the odds of a Belichick return diminished with each Patriots loss this season, numerous names have swirled as potential successors to his throne in Foxborough. Some names have been at the tip of everyone's tongue, but here are some dark horse candidates that might have an outside shot at being the next head coach of the New England Patriots.
4. Bobby Slowik
Houston Texans' offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik has drawn widespread interest as the next young offensive mind fresh off of the Shanahan assistant assembly line. The 36-year-old play caller has been heavily praised (and rightfully so) for his work this season with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, who is the overwhelming favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after a sensational first pro season.
It is no secret that the Patriots offense needs a full makeover, and Slowik directed Houston's overhaul of a unit that ranked 31st last season in both yards per game and points per game to the 12th and 13th ranked units in those respective categories this season.
If the Patriots intend to take a quarterback with their third overall pick, Slowik's incredible success with a rookie quarterback this season should make him an appealing candidate to tutor their new franchise quarterback.
Thus far, four NFL clubs have submitted requests to interview Slowik for their own head coaching vacancies, including the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, and Washington Commanders. Slowik honed his craft as an assistant under noted offensive brainchild Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco from 2017-2022, working his way up to the role of offensive passing game coordinator before joining DeMeco Ryans in Houston.
If the Patriots are committed to a quick turnaround and risk-averse, a first-time head coach could give Kraft pause. Heck, it's only Slowik's first season as an offensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see if that turns off any teams from him during the interview process.