It's been almost a month since the Patriots left the field following their 17-3 loss to the Jets that put an end to one of the most difficult seasons in recent history. A lot has happened during that time, starting with the decision to move on from Bill Belichick and the beginning of the Jerod Mayo era in New England.
Let's take a look at some of what has transpired during that time:
As Mayo was introduced as the new Patriots head coach, one of the things he mentioned was his belief that titles were important. He's followed through on that by officially naming Alex Van Pelt, DeMarcus Covington and Jeremy Springer as offense coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, respectively.
Van Pelt was the last of the three to arrive but is the only one who comes with any experience. Van Pelt spent the last four years as the Browns offensive coordinator and will enter his 19th NFL season in 2024. Covington and Springer will become first-time coordinators, so there will be some learning on the job for both.
I like the idea of Van Pelt's experience, especially when considering the youthful nature of the remainder of the staff – including Mayo. The fact that he hasn't called plays regularly in the past is a concern, but it's outweighed by his time spent in different organizations and working in various schemes, which should be a plus. His familiarity with Kevin Stefanski's offense, which is similar to the Shanahan/McVay approach the Patriots clearly were longing for, should make him a good fit.
Keeping the idea of experience (or lack thereof) in mind, it was no surprise to read over the weekend about the Patriots interest in adding a former head coach to the mix. Various reports indicated the team was in discussions with former Giants coach Ben McAdoo for a role on offense. Like Van Pelt, McAdoo has nearly two decades of NFL experience under his belt and spent time in Green Bay. The two worked together on Mike McCarthy's staff, operating what amounted to a West Coast offense with Aaron Rodgers. McAdoo's age would give Mayo another respected voice to lean on as he embarks on his first campaign.
As time has passed there have been references to Eliot Wolf being Mayo's main confidant. During the Senior Bowl last week, Mayo and Wolf remained back in Foxborough where they continued to interview prospective candidates for various roles while Matt Groh and the rest of the personnel department were in Mobile, Alabama, checking out the prospects. Wolf obviously cut his teeth with his father, Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, in Green Bay and seems to be gravitating toward the Packers methods. Wolf is one of the few members of the Patriots brass who has worked extensively outside of New England, so it makes sense that Mayo would lean on him to find options for his staff. It also makes sense that Wolf is looking toward Green Bay for help – reportedly adding defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery as well – and it wouldn't be surprising to see more interest in Packers coaches. That's especially true for those on the defensive side of the ball following the hiring of former BC coach Jeff Hafley as the team's new defensive coordinator. Depending on which coaches Hafley chooses to retain, there could be additional options for Mayo to pick from.
Steve Belichick and Vinnie Sunseri spent time interviewing with Jedd Fisch for jobs on the University of Washington staff. Fisch recently left his position at Arizona to take over the Huskies, and reports indicate he successfully landed Belichick as his defensive coordinator and Sunseri as defensive backs coach. This makes sense on many levels. Fisch spent time with the Patriots, working as quarterbacks coach back in 2020, so there was a familiarity. Bill Belichick spoke glowingly about the job Fisch did at Arizona this season as well. For Steve Belichick, the idea of remaining on Mayo's staff didn't make much sense. Covington was ticketed as the new defensive coordinator, and having Belichick calling plays in that scenario was unlikely. Add to the fact that his father was just let go and the incentive for Steve to stay, with less power, never seemed like a realistic option.
While Mayo and Wolf remained home, Groh and college scouting director Camren Williams hit Mobile for the Senior Bowl. There were a couple of interesting tidbits courtesy of Evan Lazar's sit down with the pair including Groh citing the experience of the quarterback class.
"It's a good group. You've got guys who have played five years of college football and more for some of these guys," Groh said. "There's a lot of experience and success with these players, individual and team. As an organization, there's nothing more important than team success. A lot of these guys have really done a great job in leading their team, and now we get to drill down and see who they are as people as well."
Williams explained how getting to know the players personally will be a major part of the evaluation process.
"There's a lot of talented quarterbacks. For us, it's going to be a big process. That position … there's so much about this part when we actually get to meet them. This is where quarterbacks separate themselves," Williams said. "There are different categories within the process. There's the fall, where we evaluate the tape, and then there's the All-Star games, the combine, pro day workouts, the interactions and interviews. So, that position, in particular, is super important in that regard. So that's going to be a big piece to it. But, in general, it's a talented quarterback class."
Interesting to see Bill O'Brien's name connected to the vacant Boston College job. O'Brien left New England to take over as Ohio State's offensive coordinator, and truth be told that's a much better job with more upside than replacing Hafley at The Heights. BC is fighting an uphill battle trying to compete in the ACC against schools with far greater athletic resources, making long-term success extremely difficult to attain. And that's not even getting into the current college landscape of NIL money, the transfer portal and constant recruiting. Aside from the proximity to home, it's hard to figure out O'Brien's attraction to the opening.
Every year my inbox is inundated with press releases from networks and the NFL raving about the television ratings from the Pro Bowl. I always find it amusing since I usually have to search pretty far for anyone who actually watches the festivities, even as the game has transformed into more of skills competition and flag football event in recent years. Understanding that there is very little in the way of live sports competition during the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, it's still quite hard to believe there's as much of an audience for the Pro Bowl as the two parties claim.
Interesting item on Twitter/X from Jason_OTC at Overthecap.com: "The Niners and Chiefs are total opposites in how they spent on their rosters. The 49ers are sixth in spending and over the last five years are third in the NFL. The Chiefs are 20th this year and 29th over the last five."
Obviously, there are different ways to build a championship-caliber roster and these two have perennially been in the title mix during the entirety of the five-year span Jason highlighted. I bet some would be surprised with the numbers, however, given the presence of the big-money quarterback in Kansas City as opposed to Brock Purdy being in Year 2 of his rookie deal. Clearly, Patrick Mahomes allows the Chiefs to spend less while San Francisco is forced to spend more to maintain the high level of talent around Purdy.
Interesting interview during Super Bowl week involving Jakobi Meyers. Meyers sat down with "Felger & Mazz" on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Vegas and explained that the difference in what he was looking for as a free agent and the Patriots offer was just $1 million. Based on the scant difference between his Raiders deal and what the Patriots ultimately gave JuJu Smith-Schuster that seemed to be the case, but to hear Meyers confirm how small the gap was made losing a productive player even more frustrating.