The Patriots’ offseason is only a couple of days old, and here are some of the biggest developments thus far.

Head coach Bill Belichick, in an apparent ploy to force owner Robert Kraft’s hand, volunteered to the world Monday that he is still under contract. The notorious control freak also made the shocking if not impossible-to-believe admission he’d be open to giving up roster control if it meant staying with New England.

According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could return to the coaching staff if Belichick isn’t fired (or traded, an option that is reportedly unlikely).

Former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli is open to a return to New England, with or without Belichick in the fold, The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin reported Tuesday. Volin also speculated former Patriots front office staffers Jon Robinson and Dave Ziegler could be considered in the search for team builders.

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Former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who has found success as Tennessee Titans head coach, is reportedly interested in the Patriots job if it becomes available. Another recent report identified former New England defensive coordinator Brian Flores, currently holding the same position in Minnesota, could be an option to replace if Kraft sends Belichick packing. Of course, former Patriots linebacker and current assistant coach Jerod Mayo has been considered an option to succeed Belichick for at least a year or so.

That’s a whole lot of “former Patriots,” no?

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The longer Kraft and the Patriots wait to make some sort of definitive move — more meetings are on the way! — the more likely it becomes that a) Belichick returns (perhaps with some help on offense and team building) or b) Belichick is gone and replaced by someone with whom the Patriots are familiar.

On one hand, that makes some sense. Kraft is 82 years old, and he might just want to work with people he knows (where have we heard that before?). Vrabel, for instance, is a former Coach of the Year. Pioli is a three-time Executive of the Year. These aren’t bums, per se.

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However, if Kraft does indeed have the guts to fire Belichick (and pay him the rest of his contract), the apparent Plan B seems to lack creativity, to say the least.

That wouldn’t be as bad if the Patriots were coming off three straight 8-9 seasons, needing just a tweak or two to get back into AFC contention. The problem, though, is New England has been on a pretty steady decline since Tom Brady’s departure. That steady decline became a free fall this season. The roster is not talented enough to contend for an AFC East title, let alone a conference or Super Bowl. There is no clear plan forward at quarterback, the most important position in sports. The offensive line is in tatters, and they have a woeful collection of offensive skill players with a roster core generally bereft of young talent.

If there ever was a time to clean house, it’s now. Instead, it’s all half-measures. If you’re willing to fire Belichick only to turn things over to defensive-minded assistants like Flores, Mayo or even Vrabel (who at least has head coaching experience), why not just keep rolling with Belichick instead of trying to find the next Belichick? Meanwhile, teams like the Falcons, Panthers, Chargers and Commanders are already getting down to business in their respective searches.

It’s a depressing symmetry. One of the knocks on Belichick is that he hasn’t been able to adapt and evolve — at least as a roster builder. The Krafts, it appears, suffer from a similar condition.

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It’s not shocking, though. The franchise has had historical amounts of success under this ownership. All they know is winning. In that way, it’s easy to see why they’d want familiarity moving forward. They want to keep the chain linked. Heck, even Belichick himself with his ties to Bill Parcells and the mid-1990s Patriots represents a similar philosophy.

Yet, an outside observer can’t help but wonder whether they’re just trying to replicate the glory years when the glory years are over.

The silver lining of the atrocious bottoming out in 2023 is that the Patriots own the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They potentially have a chance to grab their next quarterback and (re)build around him. Belichick hasn’t proved he can do that, at least not recently.

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Maybe one of those other guys from Patriots past could do a better job and they’ll ultimately be the right hire. But there’s never been a better time to reset the football operation, and every day that passes in which the Patriots don’t do that, the harder it will be to rip off that Band-Aid.

And with every day that passes, it becomes more likely that’s what they will do. If that’s the case, they might as well give Brady a call and see if he’s willing to put the shoulder pads back on for a couple of more years.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images