With Bill Belichick officially out as head coach of the New England Patriots, attention has quickly turned to his replacements.
It was already widely speculated but the announcement finally came when ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed early on Thursday, January 11, that the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach is “expected to part ways.”
Plenty of candidates for the job are already within the NFL ranks, but could his replacement come from the college game?
Bill Belichick Replacements From College
The pipeline for college coaches entering the NFL and being successful has always been turbulent. Great college coaches such as Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Lou Holtz never replicated their success at the pro level. However, Pete Carroll, Tom Coughlin, and Jimmy Johnson all replicated their success.
If the Patriots decide to look at the college ranks to select the next head coach, who are some potential options?
Jim Harbaugh: the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to open NFL head coaching vacancies. After a stint as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers between 2011 and 2014, it appears that Harbaugh is open to a return to the NFL.
After leading the Michigan Wolverines to become National Champions, Harbaugh has accomplished everything he can in the college game. He is rumored with almost every opening in the NFL, but the Patriots could make a lot of sense.
Harbaugh will want full control if he is to return to the NFL, and New England is already used to that model under Bill Belichick. With the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft and plenty of resources to turn the team around, this could be the next project that interests Harbaugh.
Before taking the head coaching job in Athens, Smart worked under Saban at Alabama but was also on Saban’s staff when he was the head coach with the Miami Dolphins in 2006. With bags of experience in winning and creating a culture, Smart would be an enticing proposition for NFL franchises.
Smart will have plenty of interest if he wants to enter the NFL. The question is, would he even consider it?
Lincoln Riley’s stock seems to have dipped since moving from Oklahoma to USC, but the stars could align for him to enter the NFL. Drafting third overall in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Patriots will have to look at the quarterbacks available.
One of those available is many evaluator’s top QB, Caleb Williams, who has been coached under Riley’s tutelage at Oklahoma and USC.
If New England is interested in making a move to draft Williams, then pairing him with his mentor — who has made him so successful — may not be a bad move.
As one of the top offense minds in college football, Riley can manufacture an offense. If the Patriots look to go the route of an offensive-minded coach, then it could all fall into place.
If there is one thing the next head coach of New England needs to do, it is kickstart the offense.
Before becoming head coach of Tennessee in 2021, Heupel was head coach of UCF. Wherever he has gone, he has produced results and turned the offenses into well-oiled machines.
While it would be a long shot, college coaches who are offensive masterminds have gotten jobs for less.
As head coach of the Clemson Tigers, Dabo Swinney has done it all. He has a record that many NFL owners will like, with a track record of regularly producing NFL talent at the QB position like Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson.
Swinney has been rumored as a potential NFL head coach before but has always dismissed the idea. However, recently, Swinney has been outspoken about his distaste for the current college system and his dislike for NIL and the transfer portal.
If there was ever a time for Swinney to take the jump, it could be now.
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