With a crowd gathering inside the G-P Atrium by the north end zone of Gillette Stadium, the Patriots formally introduced Jerod Mayo as the franchise's 15th head coach.
Among the observers there to see a historic day in team history were current and former Patriots players who either played for or with Mayo during his 13 years in the organization. Current players in attendance were linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, cornerback Jonathan Jones, pass-rusher Josh Uche, quarterback Mac Jones, and long-snapper Joe Cardona. Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich were also in attendance.
Members of New England's scouting department, led by Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh and Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf, were also in attendance. As was defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington, who could remain with the Patriots on Mayo's staff.
Speaking to reporters following Coach Mayo's introductory press conference, Bentley and Jones set an early tone from the players' point of view.
"My initial reaction? I mean, hyped. Hyped, for sure," Bentley told reporters. "This is your position coach. The guy who spent the most time with us as a defense and a full linebacker room. It's great to see that you can do all the right things and work hard each and every day; whether you're a player or coach, you can see the dividends play out.
"We're glad to see the right thing happened. The right guy got the job," Bentley added. "Having Jerod step up into that position, it's not really surprising or too shocking for us."
Like many players and team personnel that have been around him over the years, Bentley and Jones pointed to Mayo's connection with his players and leadership qualities as personality traits that make the new Patriots head coach the right coach for the job.
"There are certain people that when people are in the room, they gravitate towards you. Their presence is known, and he [Mayo] is one of those guys. When [Coach Mayo] is in the room, people are going to gravitate, and people are going to listen. He's going to capture people's attention," Jones told Patriots.com.
Along those same lines, Bentley added, "Everybody operates differently. Because it's a totally different coach: he's not Bill [Belichick]. He's a different coach making his own path. We just can't wait to see what it looks like. At the end of the day, I'm not trying to throw our expectations on anything. We'll take it one day at a time. But we're all excited about it. We're all excited. We're hype."
According to the Patriots new head coach, a tenet of his regime will be relating to the current generation's players who want more transparency.
"The number one thing is developing people, and with this generation -- back when I first started playing, most of the time Coach would say something, and guys would do it. I think with this generation, you have to show them that you care about them before you get into competency as far as Xs and Os are concerned," Mayo said on Wednesday.
For Bentley, the Patriots captain sees that as a clear strength of Mayo's as things move forward with his new head coach going from the linebacker room to the head job in New England.
"Being able to communicate with your players and explaining, like he said, the why behind certain things. Sometimes, they'd say, 'Nah, don't do that,' and I wish you were telling me why I shouldn't do that so that I know the repercussions of it. So if I run into it, I know the reason as to why rather than say don't do it. I would say especially with [Coach] Mayo being in the linebacker room, he gives you the why," Bentley explained.
"In the meeting rooms, he'd always say, hey, this is your guy's defense. I'll give you this canvas and you paint it on there," said Jones. "There are certain things like that. He just has an understanding of players. He hasn't been far removed from being a player himself, so he definitely has that perspective."
As for the next steps, Bentley and Jones remained open-minded about what a Mayo-led defense could look like moving forward. Obviously, one would expect some continuity given the recent success of the defense and Mayo's roots in a Belichick scheme.
"We'll see. I think there will be a certain level of continuity. I don't think it will change too much," Jones told Patriots.com about the schematic direction of the defense under Mayo, with Bentley later adding, "It's huge, but we are a long, long way from X's and O's."
It was important for the Patriots linebacker to be there in person for "my people," Bentley explained when asked what made him attend Mayo's introductory press conference. Jones, on the other hand, said that he flew himself back to the area after recently getting his pilot's license.
The two veterans are thrilled Mayo was promoted to head coach, but Bentley had a message to Patriots fans who are clamoring for immediate answers and action to improve the team:
"To New England fans: let's take it one day at a time. We're gonna take it one day at a time. The season just ended. We're all taking it in as well. This essentially just happened. We're still letting it soak in," Bentley continued. "But obviously, the expectations for us were like, we're just eager to get at it. We are hyped about this whole thing."
It was a feel-good day down in Foxborough with the entire organization catching some wind in its sails, but now the real work begins for Mayo. The Patriots have to rebuild a roster that went 4-13 last season, with the third overall pick and an estimated $70 million in cap space.
To that point, chairman and CEO Robert Kraft explained that the team will continue to evaluate internal options while potentially interviewing external candidates to take on more personnel power. Mayo also suggested there could be changes to the coaching staff, which should have a more traditional hierarchy and titles.
"Everything is still under consideration. Obviously, the staff that I've been working with isn't the staff that I have chosen, but everything is under evaluation," Mayo said of his incomplete coaching staff.
Although this new era will be judged on results next fall and beyond, Patriots players, past and present, are rallying around New England's new head coach.