Time for another New England Patriots mailbag, bye week edition. Let’s get right to it:

Any speculation on who Kraft would bring in as a GM/coach combo if they do move on from the bellicheck era. Although there’s talk of Mayo or trading for vrable would it make sense (would Kraft be willing)to bring in totally fresh faces at the two most important spots?
I still think Jerod Mayo has to be viewed as the favorite to replace Bill Belichick if the Patriots change coaches after the season, which seems likely at this point.

Robert Kraft openly said back in March that he hoped Mayo would be New England’s next head coach. Here’s the exact quote Kraft gave after convincing Mayo to turn down head-coaching interviews and sign a new Patriots contract:

“There’s no ceiling on his ability to be a head coach, and he’ll be a head coach. I’m sure of that. I hope he’s with us.”

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That’s a very strong endorsement. So, I’d put Mayo at the top of the list of potential Belichick replacements.

I do find the idea of a trade for Mike Vrabel very intriguing, though, especially if the Patriots can offset the cost by also trading Belichick to his desired destination. You could argue that Vrabel would be the best of both worlds: a talented coach with a deep connection to the franchise, but one who would bring a fresh perspective and approach because he never coached under Belichick, only played.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

There’s also a valid case for a complete franchise reset, with Kraft hiring a coach and general manager with no prior New England ties. It depends on whether ownership still believes the Patriots’ long-established culture can succeed with some necessary tweaks or wants to clean house and start fresh. The latter obviously would greatly expand the pool of potential candidates.

As for possible GM successors, I think Eliot Wolf could receive consideration if Kraft stays internal. Wolf, who’s in his fourth season with New England, has been up for several GM jobs in the past and isn’t a Patriots lifer, having spent the first decade-plus of his career in Green Bay.

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Nick Caserio has been floated as a dream candidate, but would the Houston Texans want to get rid of him with that franchise in its best position in years? Perhaps the Patriots pursue a reunion with Dave Ziegler, who’s out of a job after 1 1/2 seasons with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas.

Given the strong ownership, cap space, and probable high draft pick, would the Pats be the most attractive opening for an incoming head coach if they move on from Bill?

It depends on which other jobs open up. It certainly would be a clean slate for the next coach/GM to reshape the roster as they saw fit, as the Patriots are set to have more than $90 million in cap space this offseason (second-most in the NFL) and could turn over more than half of their roster in the coming months.

That roster, though, is lacking in high-end talent, especially on offense, and does not currently have a no-doubt starting quarterback. It’ll take a string of big hits in free agency and the draft for the Patriots to be back to contender status next season. The next guy also will face the pressure of following the greatest coach in NFL history.

That said, if the Patriots finish with a top-two draft pick and the chance to take Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, that’s a pretty enticing starting point for a new regime.

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Would BOB/BB make Mac the emergency 3rd QB going forward and have Zappe/Grier the active QBs? Did Hasty take Jack Jones roster spot or could we see Cunningham back on the 53 at some point?

According to reporters on site, Mac Jones still looked like the Patriots’ starting quarterback in their lone bye week practice. The media only is allowed to watch the first few minutes of practice, though, and what the team showed during that brief window isn’t necessarily representative of their plan for next Sunday. Neither Belichick nor Jones has said whether a QB change is coming.

Personally, I’m in the “bench Mac” camp. He just looks like a completely broken player right now, devoid of any composure in the pocket and repeatedly making the same mistake. Teammates reportedly also have lost faith in him, with sources telling the Boston Herald that “80%” of the locker room is out on Jones.

That said, it’s pretty clear that the Patriots don’t have any compelling options behind him on the depth chart. Even though I think it makes sense to start Bailey Zappe or Will Grier against the New York Giants, I doubt either will be a real upgrade.

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On Part 2 of your question, yes, running back JaMycal Hasty took Jack Jones’ 53-man roster spot when the Patriots claimed him off waivers from Jacksonville. We’ll see what his role looks like — and how long he sticks around, as New England has cut players mere days after claiming them in the past.

As for Malik Cunningham, the Patriots have yet to use any of his three practice squad elevations, so they easily could call him up multiple times without having to add him to the roster. It’s unclear whether they have any plans to do so, and I would be stunned if the Patriots chose him to replace Mac Jones as the starter. But it would be entertaining to see if the athletic rookie can replicate his preseason magic in an expanded, Taysom Hill-type role.

Zack, is the season over yet? And if it probably isn’t, can it be? Thanks and go bruins!
Seven more games, Shawn. It’s going to be a long next two months on the Patriots beat. Expect to see some noticeable changes in how we and other outlets cover this team post-bye.

At least fans have dynamite B’s and Celtics squads to root for, though. You have to go back to the early 1990s to find the last time Boston’s hockey and basketball teams both were contending while its football outfit was playing out the string. Strange times, indeed.

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