The Patriots very well could move on from Bill Belichick after their worst season in decades. One new report indicated team owner Robert Kraft already “decided” Belichick won’t be back in 2024.

If Belichick and the Patriots do part ways, who would replace the greatest head coach in NFL history? The most logical candidate already is on staff.

Last offseason, Kraft said he hoped Jerod Mayo, New England’s linebackers coach and de facto co-defensive coordinator, would one day succeed Belichick.

“There’s no ceiling on his ability to be a head coach, and he’ll be a head coach,” Kraft told reporters back in March. “I’m sure of that. I hope he’s with us. So we’ll see what happens.”

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How would Mayo, who turned down head-coaching interviews last winter to re-sign with the Patriots, feel about filling Belichick’s shoes? The former New England linebacker was asked that question ahead of the team’s Week 15 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.

“I bet you could say the answer that I’m about to give you,” Mayo replied during a Tuesday morning video conference. “We’re 100% focused on the Chiefs. I only try to control the controllables, and that’s out of my control.”

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Mayo went on to reiterate, however, that his goal is to be an NFL head coach, and he said he’d love to do so in New England.

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“Hopefully, as you guys all know, one day I want to be a head coach,” the 37-year-old said. “Where that is, I don’t know. But at the same time, I would say I have a lot of love for New England. I have a lot of love for the fans, the people around the building, and my family, they love it here, as well.

“So that would be great if I could stay here and continue to progress throughout my career. But we’ll see.”

Mayo said there’s “honestly … no anxiety” involved in waiting to see whether that opportunity will come.

“I’m not trying to get too spiritual,” he said, “but wherever God wants to take me, I’ll be ready to go.”

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It’s unclear whether Kraft still views Mayo as his head coach-in-waiting, and a case can be made for replacing Belichick with someone who didn’t previously coach under him. But whether in New England or elsewhere, Mayo is likely to land a top job within the next year or two.

He’s been viewed as a hot head-coaching candidate since 2020, and New England’s defense this season has remained effective despite losing two of its top players (Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez) four weeks in. The Patriots allowed 20 or fewer points in each of their last five games and rank near the top of the league in total defense (eighth), yards allowed per play (fourth), rushing yards allowed per game (third), yards allowed per rush (first) and red-zone defense (sixth).

New England’s 14th-place rank in points allowed includes three opponent pick-sixes and one fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The Patriots have been much, much better on that side of the ball this season than they’ve been on offense.

With just four games remaining before the offseason, we’ll soon find out whether Belichick, Mayo or someone else will be coaching this team in 2024.

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Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images