The Patriots had to a wait a couple of weeks, but they finally got their men. In some cases, they didn't need to look too far to find them.
Jerod Mayo and Eliot Wolf spent more than two weeks putting their heads together before landing three new coordinators – Alex Van Pelt on offense, DeMarcus Covington on defense and Jeremy Springer on special teams.
In Covington's case, they didn't need to venture much further than their own meeting room to find him, but Van Pelt and Springer required some digging.
Van Pelt, 53, is by far the most experienced coach among those in which the Patriots had expressed interest. He has 18 NFL seasons under his belt, five as a coordinator and five others as strictly a quarterbacks coach (including time spent with Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton). He's had stops in Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Cincinnati as well as his most recent work in Cleveland. Although he has very little experience calling plays, he was the Browns offensive coordinator from 2020-23 where head coach Kevin Stefanski called the shots.
Last season Van Pelt managed to be productive enough offensively to win 11 games and make the playoffs despite a rash of injuries to key players such as Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb and three starting linemen. Cleveland was forced to start five different quarterbacks during the season, and yet Van Pelt continued to find ways to get by.
One reason for that was Van Pelt's ability to adapt. Given the health problems at quarterback, he worked with Stefanski to find ways to succeed even after luring Joe Flacco off his couch to direct the attack down the stretch. The game plans created for Flacco worked to perfection as Cleveland enjoyed its most productive month of the year in December/January.
The Browns offense featured a heavy emphasis on the run game, mostly with zone blocking schemes that favor lots of play action and misdirection plays, similar to the Shanahan/McVay approach. Cleveland was willing to vary the style of runs as well, but at its base the system leans toward the coveted tree the Patriots are clearly looking to adapt.
The Browns also relied heavily on analytics to help with in-game decisions, so it will be interesting to see if New England's approach becomes more aggressive in terms of fourth downs or two-point attempts.
Given the youthful nature of Mayo's staff, having a more seasoned eye to rely on to run the offense is a huge plus. It also won't hurt Mayo to have an older member of the staff to lean on if necessary, one who has been in different systems and can offer different viewpoints based on his experience.
As for the 34-year-old Covington, his work with the defensive line in 2023 did not go unnoticed. Led by some stout play up front, the Patriots defense led the league in average yards per carry allowed. That was mostly due to the strong work of Covington's troops – led by Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux and the emerging Anfernee Jennings, who replaced the injured Matthew Judon and provided a physical edge-setter.
But the unit's best work came from Christian Barmore, who developed into a force as a three-down player who not only improved as a run-stopper but also finished with a team-high 8.5 sacks. Covington was a big part of that development, and now he gets to run the show on defense as it tries to build off the success it enjoyed in 2023.
Springer, 35, also will need to turn things around with his unit. The Patriots special teams struggled throughout the season, so it was strange to see Mayo and Wolf tab a guy who was involved with units that were rated even lower. The Rams ranked at the bottom of the league in terms of DVOA and in Rick Gosselin's annual special teams report, which is respected by many football insiders including coaches.
While Springer was the Rams assistant special teams coach in 2023, he did enjoy success in college, including a stop at Arizona when he oversaw J.J. Taylor's emergence as one of the best kickoff returners in the country. He also worked at UTEP, Texas A&M and Marshall.
With three new coordinators now in the fold, Mayo and Wolf still have plenty of work left to be done. It remains unclear how the remainder of the staff will be compiled. Will Steve and Brian Belichick choose to stay in New England and accept roles on Covington's defense? Is Adrian Klemm content to remain as offensive line coach? Given Van Pelt's lack of experience calling plays, will Mayo and Wolf look for an experienced veteran coach to add some guidance?
Those questions may be answered down the road, but at this stage the pieces are starting to fall into place for the Mayo era.