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Analysis: Jerod Mayo Takes the Reins in New England

Jerod Mayo took centerstage on Wednesday as the New England Patriots officially introduced him as the team's next head coach.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and head coach Jerod Mayo.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and head coach Jerod Mayo.

The New England Patriots made it official with new head coach Jerod Mayo on Wednesday, introducing Mayo in front of a packed G-P Atrium inside Gillette Stadium. The guest list was filled with familiar faces from the past and present, including a healthy contingent from the extended Mayo family, Patriots execs like Matt Groh, Eliot Wolf and their staff members, defensive line coach Demarcus Covington, current Patriots players Mac Jones, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Jonathan Jones and past teammates of Mayo like Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich.

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft kicked off the festivities by welcoming those in attendance and laying out how the decision to hire Mayo was years in the making.

"In my experience, the most successful leadership transitions happen when we're privileged to develop talent from within and that allows us to create a succession plan that allows the candidate to better prepare for the opportunity when he arrived," said Kraft, adding that seeing Jerod up close on a trip to Israel in 2019 helped strengthen his convictions that he eventually would be the right man for the job.

Mayo is no stranger to New England after being selected by the Patriots 10th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft and winning the league's AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, logging 128 tackles right out of the gate. Mayo quickly ascended to captaincy in his second season, demonstrating at an early age that he not only understood the game at a high level but had an innate ability to lead. Kraft took an early notice of the young linebacker from the University of Tennessee.

After retiring in 2016, Mayo spent three years in the working world at Optum but returned to the team in a coaching capacity in the spring of 2019. Since then, Mayo has helped lead the Patriots stout defensive unit that has retained its high level of play despite a recent playoff drought.

"He was the right person to be the next head coach of the New England Patriots and that decision has always strengthened as I've observed him over the last five years," said Kraft. "I've learned to trust my instincts throughout my career and I trust that Jerod is the right person to lead the Patriots back to the championship level contention and long term success."

Mayo was comfortable and in command in his first press conference as a head coach, self-assured as one of his biggest dreams was coming true in the moment. The common theme that continually came from him was one of being a teacher and developing the people under him, why also acknowledging that today's athletes need to first know they're cared about before fully investing themselves.

"This has definitely been a dream of mine. I would say I'm a huge believer in just developing people, whether it's on the football field or whether it's off the football field, in the media world, in business. My calling is to be a teacher and to develop people and help them see pretty much what they don't want to see but they need to see," said Mayo, adding, "You better believe being the first black head coach here in New England means a lot to me."

It's clear that in his first week as head coach, Mayo remains in full evaluation mode, saying his initial aim is to "rebuild relationships and knock down silos." Neither he nor Kraft would commit to timelines for changes or certain plans for infrastructure, instead using these early days to process where each part of the team is at and where it needs to be.

They will continue to evaluate front office, while giving those who have already been in place a chance to fully demonstrate what they are capable of. Similarly, Mayo said that the team would consider all options when it came to hiring coordinators.

Former player and assistant coach Jerod Mayo was introduced as the new head coach of the New England Patriots today, January 17, 2024 during a press conference at Gillette Stadium.

"Everything is still under consideration," said Mayo. "Obviously, the staff I've been working with isn't the staff I have chosen. All that stuff is under evaluation. My number one thing is that I want to bring in developers.

"One thing you'll notice about me in our interaction as we continue to go, is I don't like echo chambers. I want people around me that are going to question my ideas or yes question the way we have done things in the past because realistically this game is a lot different than when I was drafted in 2008. At the same time, that's why I try to spend so much time developing young men and young women. I don't want to teach them what to think, I want to teach them how to think."

The biggest questions from the media concerned a new and unknown power structure at the top of the organization, specifically who would have final decision over personnel moves, a role that Bill Belichick handled for more than two decades. Now, with a new head coach and a handful of holdover executives, it's a good question who will make the final call if those parties can't agree to a consensus.

Again, Kraft and Mayo spoke about empowering the people already in house and not rushing to any immediate decisions.

"We have a lot of people internally who have had a chance to train and learn under the greatest coach of all time -- a man whose football intellect is very special, so in the short term, we're looking for collaboration," said Kraft, who added that ownership has no plans to insert themselves into the football operation except in cases of character concern.

"It'll be the same input that we had in the last three decades," said Kraft. "We try to hire the best people we can find and let them do their job."

While questions about players, staff and front office members can wait, this was a day to honor Mayo as he takes over for one of the best to ever do it. Just as Kraft acknowledged that many under the tutelage of Bill Belichick will now have an opportunity to demonstrate what they learned from him, there are also some universal football foundations that Belichick installed that will remain with Mayo.

"The more I think about the lessons I've taken from Bill, hard work works," said Mayo. "Hard work works. That's what we're all about."

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