The search for the next head coach of the New England Patriots might end as soon as it begins.

With the organization and Bill Belichick agreeing to part ways Thursday, the Patriots are in need of a new head coach for the first time in over two decades. It could be a lengthy process for Patriots owner Robert Kraft to find Belichick’s successor, but it doesn’t appear things will go that route.

Instead, it could be a much quicker process with NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reporting Thursday night that the Patriots have a “succession plan” in place to make Jerod Mayo the team’s next head coach. Having that type of plan would allow the Patriots to promote Mayo without having to adhere to the various rules surrounding coaching hires.

“If (Mayo) is the choice, which has not been fully decided as of now, but if that is the choice, from what I am told by a variety of sources, the Patriots would not have to go through a lengthy process, would not have to fulfill the Rooney Rule, not have to do the other DEI obligations of every other team,” Rapoport said on “NFL Total Access.” “The reason why is because they established Jerod Mayo as the successor to Bill Belichick. They did this contractually with his current contract. They made it clear before the season and they communicated this to the league.”

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Kraft could hire Mayo immediately with the plan Rapoport described or could still look at external candidates — like Mike Vrabel — but then would have go through the NFL hiring policies.

Rapoport noted that a few NFL teams have used succession plans previously. The Baltimore Ravens did it with general manager Eric DeCosta while the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks followed a similar path when hiring Jim Caldwell and Jim Mora, respectively.

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Mayo is viewed as one of the top candidates for the vacant position. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Mayo played eight seasons for the Patriots before retiring. The 37-year-old joined the coaching ranks in 2019 with New England and served as the team’s linebackers coach this past season.

Mayo has made it known publicly his desire to become an NFL head coach. He interviewed for the top coaching jobs with the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders in recent years and turned down an opportunity to interview for the head coaching spot of the Carolina Panthers last offseason by signing a contract extension with the Patriots to secure his future with New England.

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And it now it’s looking more and more likely Mayo will get what he was after all along and could be announced as the next head coach of the Patriots in the very near future.

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images