New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been in the NFL for so long, he’s sprouted two head coaching trees.
On one, former assistants-turned-head coaches like Romeo Crennel (Houston Texans), Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions), Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins) and Joe Judge (Detroit Lions) serve as branches. On the other coaching tree, former players who have become head coaches, Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans) and Kliff Kingsbury — whose Arizona Cardinals will come to New England to face Belichick’s Patriots on Sunday — have germinated.
Other former players of Belichick’s already are moving up the coaching ranks. Troy Brown, Jerod Mayo and Vinnie Sunseri are assistants under Belichick in New England. Ryan Wendell (Buffalo Bills), Andre Carter (New York Jets), Adrian Klemm (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ray Ventrone (Indianapolis Colts), Mike Kafka (Kansas City Chiefs), Billy Yates, Tyrone McKenzie, Steve Gregory, Tony Carter, Leon Washington, Ty Warren (Detroit Lions), Kevin O’Connell, Zac Robinson (Los Angeles Rams), Wes Welker (San Francisco 49ers) and Larry Izzo (Seattle Seahawks) are on staffs around the NFL.
Among those former Patriots, Mayo, the Patriots’ inside linebackers coach, Kafka, the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, and O’Connell, the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator, already have found themselves on future head coaching shortlists.
But which current Patriots could go into coaching? Four of the former Patriots who have gone into coaching are quarterbacks (Kingsbury, Kafka, O’Connell and Robinson), so that’s a good position to start. Cam Newton has coached 7-on-7 camps for years and certainly would be a hit with players. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Brian Hoyer or a practice squad quarterback like Jake Dolegala to go into coaching.
Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears mentioned James White and Rex Burkhead as potential future coaches. Patriots linebackers like Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower could follow in Vrabel and Mayo’s footsteps and into coaching.
Belichick has been with the Patriots for 20 years, and he has at least 20 former players coaching around the NFL. So, chances are strong at least one player on the Patriots’ current roster will go into coaching when their NFL careers are over. Other names worth mentioning are center James Ferentz and special teamer Matthew Slater. Defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty would be smart to go into the media, but they certainly have the smarts and passion for football.