Back in early November, The Boston Globe reported Mike Vrabel would be Robert Kraft’s “home run choice” to replace Bill Belichick if the Patriots made a coaching change after the 2023 season.

Vrabel, who was fired by the Tennessee Titans earlier this month, was readily available when New England decided to cut ties with Belichick last Thursday. But the Kraft family ended up going in a different direction when they backfilled the legendary coach.

One day after Belichick’s exit, the Patriots promoted Jerod Mayo to head coach. New England had a succession plan in place for Mayo to replace Belichick and seemingly didn’t consider any other candidates as it turned the page at head coach for the first time in over two decades.

The lack of a pursuit of Vrabel was especially surprising. But in a Sports Illustrated column published Monday, Albert Breer explained why the Patriots Hall of Famer returning to Foxboro, Mass., wasn’t really on the table.

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“The availability of Patriots Hall of Famer Mike Vrabel (who’d have been a home run hire) did little to move Kraft off his spot,” Breer wrote. “The reason? Well, it actually relates back to the hire of Belichick. Kraft is fond of telling the story of when Belichick was one of Bill Parcells’ assistants in New England in 1996, and how he became enthralled with the coach’s command over the salary cap and team building — and considered hiring him after Parcells left.

“The problem at the time was that things ran so hot with Parcells that Kraft saw hiring one of his right-hand men as impractical at the time. He’s told people since he immediately regretted not following his instincts on that one and made up for it three years later by hiring Belichick. And, sure, it sounds a little hokey, but this is a case of Kraft following what’s in his gut, the way he did in 2000, and the way he wishes he had in 1997.”

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Kraft and company clearly see a great deal of potential in Mayo, but there are obvious risks that come with hiring a 37-year-old who’s never even been an official coordinator at the NFL level. And if Mayo ends up not reaching expectations, Patriots brass might regret not giving Vrabel serious consideration.

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Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images