Patriots hire Mayo as new head coach
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jerod Mayo spent his entire professional football career learning from Bill Belichick, first as a player and then as an assistant.
He’ll now have the weighty task of succeeding the future Hall of Famer and leading a New England Patriots team as its first new voice in more than two decades.
The Patriots named Mayo to succeed Belichick as the franchise's 15th head coach on Friday. Mayo is the first Black head coach in team history.
He will be formally introduced at a news conference on Wednesday, the team announced.
Mayo played eight NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots during the 2014 season. He has been an assistant under Belichick since 2019, serving primarily as the Patriots linebackers coach. He'll become the NFL's youngest head coach at age 37.
Mayo’s hire comes a day after Belichick agreed to part ways with the Patriots after a 24-year run that included six Super Bowl wins.
Mayo immediately rose to the top of the list of viable Belichick successors after the Patriots took the unique step of announcing they were giving the assistant a long-term extension last offseason. Mayo, along with Belichick’s son and fellow linebackers coach Steve Belichick, handled the play calling duties for the Patriots defense over the past two seasons.
Despite New England's 4-13 record this season, the team's defense has remained highly ranked in several categories despite losing top linebacker Matt Judon and rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez early to season-ending injuries.
Though it’s unclear what the terms of Mayo’s deal prior to last season entailed, it came after he interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs in Philadelphia and Carolina each of the past two years.
In announcing the decision to part ways with Belichick on Thursday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft promised to move quickly on trying to fill the hole.
Kraft said that the mandate for the next coach would be a return to the postseason for a Patriots team that has missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons and hasn't won a playoff game since the 2018 season.
“We’re looking for someone who can help us get back to the playoffs and win,” Kraft said. “Believe me, after my family, this is really one of the two most important assets in my life. I am very upset when we don’t win games. It carries the whole week. So, I promise you I’ll be focused to do the best I can do to make sure we’re putting ourselves in the best long-term position to win for many years.”
During his time in the coaching ranks, Mayo has quickly developed a reputation for being able to relate to players.
Former Patriots safety Devin McCourty played alongside Mayo for six seasons and then under him from 2019-22.
During an appearance on NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk on Friday, McCourty pointed out that one thing that will benefit Mayo is that he also had the opportunity to hone his skills in other places as well, notably the time he spent working in finance at Optum.
“When you hear him talk, he talks not just leadership in football by kind of CEO talk in life leading people,” McCourty said.
Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley said earlier this month that Mayo already garners lots of respect around the locker room.
“Players love him. I love to play for him. He gets the best out of his players," Bentley said. “At the same time, he understands as far as the culture and everything how to get everybody going.”
But Mayo will likely get criticism from some about how much time he’s spent inside the Patriot bubble. That's nothing he can't overcome, McCourty said.
“I understand the reservations of people who are like, ‘Well, all he is, is a Patriot,’" McCourty said. "But when people get to be around him and talk to him, they’ll see the differences in him and Bill and how the organization will be going forward.”
One thing Mayo isn't expected to have is the same control over personnel matters like Belichick did for most of his tenure with the Patriots. Along with being coach, Belichick also served as New England's de facto general manager.
But Kraft pointed out on Thursday that Belichick didn't receive that power until after he won his third Super Bowl with the team following the 2004 season and that Belichick “earned it and it worked pretty well for most of the time.”
That means a new general manager hire, or some other restructuring of the front office, is likely next on Kraft's plate.
“I think it’s good to have checks and balances,” Kraft said.
Maaddi reported from Tampa, Fla.
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