There hasn’t been a defensive coordinator since Matt Patricia left for the Lions roughly two years ago. This year Bill Belichick will once again take the role of defensive play-caller while he continues to search for the perfect person for the job. Here we will look at the most likely candidates to have the role of defensive coordinator.

These are ranked by likeliness, not by who would be the best in the role.

5. Brian Flores

Belichick is VERY picky when choosing a new defensive coordinator. To even be considered you must have some experience with the Patriots system. That moves a lot of candidates off the table. But say that Flores struggles with coaching a terrible Dolphins squad and gets fired by the offseason. Belichick would not be afraid to bring him back. Flores was solid with the Pats the year prior as the defensive assistant, so he knows what it takes to be the defensive coordinator. He also has been with them for 15 years in different capacities. He knows what it takes to be successful for the Patriots, and Belichick will not hold the fact that Flores left against him.

4. Greg Schiano

Yes, he resigned before he was even hired last year because he wanted to spend time with his family. But the way I see it, is this was just a break before he gets back into coaching. He wants to evaluate the Patriots defensive talent to see if he has enough to work with so he doesn’t get another Buccaneers situation. Plus any successful football coach won’t retire until they are very old. The game will pull them back in just like it did with Scarnecchia. Schiano is a long time friend of BB. He is also a successful coach when given talent. While his short experience in the NFL wasn’t pretty, it was with a horrid Buccaneers team. Schiano is a solid option for the role, and definitely one one Bill’s radar.

3. Bill Belichick

While it would be a first for him to have play calling duties for three straight years, it is not impossible. He needs a D-coordinator that he can trust, and who better than himself. We know he won’t rush into any decision, so he may take another year if he strikes out of options. In the years Bill has been the play-caller the Patriots defense has been top notch. He has had three stints as the Patriots defensive play-caller, and he has been able to diminish the damage of losing crucial D-Coordinators like Pees and Patricia. I mean, just last year he managed a defense which is arguably responsible for their Super Bowl win. Bill might be the most likely option for defensive coordinator next year. The Pats will be more than fine if he is.

2. Matt Patricia

Is this surprising to anyone that he is on the list? He was with the Patriots for six years, leading a top ten defense to a championship twice. In 2016 his defense was the best in the entire NFL. He is a man who, like Belichick, gets the most out of his guys. Unfortunately for him, his tenure with the Lions isn’t going to well. His defense was average at best, and his offense was horrible. In my opinion Patricia, like McDaniels, is not cut out to be a head coach. I don’t think many would be too surprised if, after a second bad campaign, he gets fired and runs back to the Patriots. He can take the defense almost exactly the same as he left it and continue right where he left off.

He has shown some joy and skill in developing young players into stars, so Winovich, Bentley, and J.C. Jackson would be a project that could lure him back to the Pats. It would be putting it nice to say that he has struggled in his short time with the Lions, so perhaps it is time to go back to what he knows best: leading the Patriots defense to another ring.

1. Bret Bielema

You may be a little confused here with my #1 choice. I was too at first. But I researched past Belichick hirings, and this would be the most Belichick-like choice possible. Dean Pees, former Patriots defensive coordinator from 2006-2009, starting in college before joining the Pats as a position coach. When Mangini left, Pees took over and was pretty successful. Pees had a defense ranked top five in three of his four years, and of course was the DC during the undefeated run of 2007. Oh yeah, and don’t forget he only was a coach for two years with the Pats before getting the job. Bielema has followed that path up to this point. I believe that the only reason Belichick didn’t give him the job this year is because Bielema is relatively new to the Pats organization. But this year would mark his second with the club, the same amount of time as Pees had before becoming coordinator.

But Belichick is already preparing for him to become the new DC. Just this year he moved to defensive line coach from his consulting position, now marking him as a defensive coach. He was widely successful in college, at one point he was even considered for coach of the year in 2010. He was fired in 2017 because he couldn’t turn a bad Arizona team into a contender, but in the Pats’ case they already are contenders. Bielema may be a surprising pick, but Belichick has already started grooming him to be the next Patricia.