[Editor’s note: this article was originally published on 1/11. Since then the Miami Dolphins have announced Flores as their new head coach, and this story has been updated accordingly]
The NFL season is over and it ended with a New England Patriots victory on the game’s biggest stage — one during which the defense played an enormous role in holding its opponent to a Super Bowl record three points. Now, however, the team will have to move on without its fast-rising defensive signal caller: the Miami Dolphins, as expected, have named Brian Flores their new head coach earlier today.
So what will the club do in order to fill the void created by Flores’ departure? Let’s take a look at five potential candidates to take over.
In case the Patriots opt to promote in house — again this is all only relevant if Flores really leaves the club — defensive line coach Brendan Daly might be the top candidate. He originally joined the team in 2014 as a defensive assistant before moving to his current position one year later. While the 43-year old is a relative newbie in New England, he has plenty of experience on his résumé and also been given some media time during press calls. Seeing Daly take over at one point would not be a surprise.
The son of head coach Bill Belichick officially joined the Patriots’ staff in 2012 as an assistant before taking over as secondary coach two years ago. He appears to have longer odds than Daly, or example, but he has one thing no other position coach currently employed by New England has: 31 years of the Belichick experience under his belt. His father promoting him over someone like the more experienced Daly might not happen just yet, but the younger Belichick is certainly on his way to take on a bigger role — maybe as early as next year.
New England originally brought Bret Bielema on board in spring as an assistant to the coaching staff — and he brings plenty of experience to the table. Before joining the Patriots, Bielema served as head coach at Arkansas and Wisconsin: he led Arkansas to a 29-34 record and two bowl victories during his 4.5 seasons as head coach, and from 2006 to 2012 went 68-24 in Wisconsin while also winning two bowl games as well as three Big 10 titles. Primarily a defensive coach, Bielema would be an interesting candidate.
Greg Schiano will probably be the most-discussed name in case Flores leaves the Patriots, and for good reason: he is among the select group of coaches in Bill Belichick’s circle of trust and out of a job since being let go as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator last week. The 52-year old also has plenty of experience, including 11 years as the head coach at Rutgers and two in the same position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ex-Arizona State head coach Todd Graham might be a dark-horse candidate for the job. After stints at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh, Graham was named head coach at ASU in 2012. Overall, his teams went a combined 46–32 during his six years with the program and won two bowl games as well as a Pac-12 division championship. However, after a 2017 campaign that ended with a 7-6 record and loss in the Sun Bowl, Graham’s contract was not extended. He was spotted at the scouting combine alongside the Patriots staff shortly afterwards, but never officially joined the team.
Of course, the Patriots could go other routes as well: Belichick might not name a coordinator for the second straight year and instead groom someone like Daly for the job. There’s also an off-chance — as unlikely as it seems — that a familiar face like current Detroit Lions assistant and former New England safety Steve Gregory gets brought aboard. Ultimately, however, we will have to wait and see.