On Sunday, the New York Jets and the New England Patriots will meet in a Week 18 matchup at Gillette Stadium. Unlike several other contests across the league, the meeting between the Jets and Patriots isn't significant for any playoff implications or record chasing. Rather, Sunday could very well signify the Patriots' swan song of arguably the greatest coach of all time, New England head coach Bill Belichick.
For weeks, Belichick's departure at season's end seemed like a forgone conclusion. This understanding was firmly reinforced by a report that Patriots owner Robert Kraft had made a decision to move on from their head coach following a Week 10 overseas loss in Germany to the Indianapolis Colts. However, more recent reporting has revealed that Belichick and Kraft will meet on Monday, essentially granting Belichick the opportunity to take the stand and defend the team's serious shortcomings. This revelation has given more life to the thought that Belichick could have a fighter's chance to carry on his reign in Foxborough than previously anticipated.
Patriots Rumors: Head Coaching Favorite About to Become Available?
Belichick isn't the only coach entering Week 18 with uncertainty surrounding his future. Per Adam Schefter, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel's future in Tennessee isn't ironclad either: "There are people around the league who think that either Vrabel would be open to be moved to another team or that the Titans would be open to moving him -- maybe both."
Once it became quite clear this season that a divorce between Belichick and the Patriots was a realistic possibility, Vrabel's name was frequently mentioned in the discussion of potential successors in New England. Vrabel is putting the finishing touches on his sixth season as an NFL head coach, accumulating a 53-45 record during that span. His connection to New England is no secret, the linebacker/defensive end spent eight years in Foxborough in their early 2000s dynasty run, capturing three Super Bowl titles.
In October, Vrabel was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame and honored the following day at halftime. With speculation already rampant that Vrabel could succeed Belichick's crumbling regime, the Tennessee head coach added fuel to that fire by attending the game in Kraft's suite and declaring that "we have a game to win today" when referring to the Patriots.
Schefter continues on to recognize that publicly, Vrabel has expressed a desire to remain in Nashville, but other NFL sources have questioned how content he is. Vrabel signed a five-year contract in 2021, which would surely indicate that Titans would require compensation if he does choose to move on. If Vrabel has separated himself as the apple of Kraft's eye, it is hard to imagine the attachment of compensation would completely discourage New England's pursuit, but it is worth noting.
The Titans have had a middling season, sitting at 5-11 heading into Week 18, but hiring an experienced head coach with strong franchise ties should be an attractive prospect for Kraft. If Vrabel truly isn't 100% content in Tennessee, a fresh start back where he won three rings could be an attractive prospect as well.
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