After mutually parting ways amicably with former head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have named Jerod Mayo the franchise's 15th head coach.
Following a decorated eight-year playing career, Coach Mayo rejoined the organization as the team's linebackers coach under Coach Belichick for the past five seasons. Mayo is the first former Patriots player to become head coach of the team, and is the first minority head coach in franchise history.
As a player, the former linebacker was a Super Bowl champion and a two-time Pro Bowler in New England. Then, Mayo was one of the NFL's most highly-coveted coaches, with the Patriots establishing a succession plan to pass the torch from Belichick to Mayo last offseason.
Speaking to current players, they paint a picture of Mayo as a motivating players coach. Some even compared him to Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, and Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce.
"He deserves to be a head coach. He's a leader. You have to have your guys want to get up and play for you. It's not easy to do in the NFL when you have other grown men. It's not easy to get up to play for coaches, especially coaches you don't respect. I think I'm speaking for everybody when I say everybody respects Coach Mayo," veteran Davon Godchaux said.
"Mayo is like that alpha male. You have that one alpha male who sticks out in the group, and he's fun to be around. We all joke, we laugh, but when it's serious, we go out there and play," Godchaux added.
"Just the way he interacts with his players. You can just feel the vibe," linebacker Mack Wilson told Patriots.com. "He's just got that alpha male personality about himself, and he's one of those coaches who knows how to turn it on and off. He's definitely a players coach."
"In today's society, in today's world, I feel like when you have coaches that played the game that have the opportunity to become coaches, I feel like it's easy to win a team [over]. To get them to buy in. That's just what I hear from guys around the league who have young coaches, whether it's Mike McDaniel or the coach in Vegas right now [Antonio Pierce]. All the young coaches right now, it's a different vibe that they bring."
As for his football mind, several Patriots defensive leaders credited Mayo for his game plans this past season. Mayo essentially co-coordinated a defense with play-caller Steve Belichick that finished the year ninth in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) despite significant injuries to Pro Bowl pass-rusher Matthew Judon and first-round pick Christian Gonzalez.
A major benefit to the Patriots succession plan at head coach is that Mayo can continue running a defensive system that has been highly successful during Belichick's unprecedented 24-year run. Recently, New England has evolved on defense to keep pace with today's offenses. The Patriots are among the league leaders in using lighter personnel, such as dime packages. They are also trailblazers in terms of using exotic pressure schemes such as "creepers" and cover zero blitz sequences.
At its roots, the Pats defense is still one of the league's most man coverage-heavy defenses, with the fourth-highest man coverage rate in 2023 (39.7%). A big part of that also includes calling all-out blitzes (cover zero) on eight percent of their defensive plays (third-highest rate). They also use creeper schemes, where the Patriots bring unexpected blitzers while typical pass rushers drop in coverage. Continuing to be trendsetters in those areas will allow the Patriots defense to build off a productive 2023 season under Mayo's guidance.
Along with coaching linebackers and helping run the defense, Mayo was more involved in other areas of the football operations last offseason. The Pats head coach was reportedly involved in interviewing during the team's offensive coordinator search and hiring process for an offensive line coach. Plus, Mayo traveled to Oregon last spring to work out first-rounder Christian Gonzalez privately before the 2023 NFL Draft. The talented cornerback's rookie season was cut short, but not before Gonzalez won Defensive Rookie of the Month last September.
Although he has gigantic shoes to fill as he inherits a team coming off a disappointing 4-13 season, the Patriots are in good hands with Mayo. However, as reflected by the Pats record in 2023, the job comes with a lot of work to do to get the Pats back to a winner, including making a franchise-altering decision with the third overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Mayo must also set a course for the struggling Patriots offense to improve. Last season, the Patriots ranked 29th in DVOA offensively after finishing 23rd the year before. Neither result was up to standard, leading to two losing seasons where the team missed the playoffs.
As a defensive-minded coach, Mayo's vision for the Patriots offense is unknown, as is the future for current offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. New England's offensive struggles were due to failing to develop and build around former first-round quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots cycled through three offensive coordinators in Jones's first three seasons, had the 32nd-ranked offensive line in pass-blocking win rate in 2023, and couldn't surround the quarterback with the necessary playmakers to make the offense viable. Will the Mayo era be different?
In October, the new Patriots head coach shed some light on scoring being down across the NFL this season: "At some point in time, scoring points becomes a big deal," Mayo said.
New England will now begin a new era. Ultimately, time will tell if Mayo can elevate the team into a championship contender. Armed with the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and a projected $70 million in cap space, the Patriots have the resources to add talented players to a roster that needs a boost, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
With a new chapter in the franchise's history beginning, Jerod Mayo is the Patriots new head coach.
DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer