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With Jerod Mayo as new coach, plenty of questions and challenges for the Patriots

Jimmy Myers
With Jerod Mayo as new coach, plenty of questions and challenges for the Patriots
Jerod Mayo playing for the Patriots. PHOTO: COURTESY NFL.COM

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Jerod Mayo Sr. was named the new head coach of the New England Patriots following the dismissal of Bill Belichick.

Mayo, who played and coached under Bill Belichick, now follows his coach as the new headman of the New England Patriots.

Following the dismissal of 24-year veteran coach Bill Belichick, there was rampant speculation that Mike Vrabel, a former Patriot player recently fired as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, would be the man to follow Belichick. But the position was Mayo’s all along, according to reports, indicating that he was being groomed to be the Hall of Famer’s successor after serving as the team’s linebackers coach for the last five years.

The Patriots officially established “a succession plan” to pass the torch from Belichick to Mayo the previous season.  Turning 38 in February, Mayo becomes the 15th head coach in franchise history, the first former Patriots player to become head coach of the team, the first minority head coach in franchise history and the youngest NFL head coach to date. (The Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is a month older.) 

Further, the Patriots were able to bypass the NFL’s Rooney Rule, established in 2003 by the NFL. According to the NFL’s website, the rule mandates teams “interview at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions and at least one external minority candidate for a coordinator job.”

Coach Jerod Mayo PHOTO: COURTESY NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Considered one of the top names on the “Hot-Coach List,” Mayo brings a sterling resume to his new position. He is presently one of only five Black coaches in the NFL, joining Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Mike McDaniel of the Dolphins, with DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans and Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 32-team league.

As a player, the former University of Tennessee Volunteer was the team’s first round draft pick and only rookie to play every down for New England. Named a captain during his second year in the league, Mayo was nicknamed “Little Bill,” because he acted very much like his coach. He was named  Defensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL in 2008 and was a Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowl performer for the Pats.

His major challenge will be to improve this team on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots have been a woeful offensive unit for the past two years, finishing 23rd and 29th, respectively, in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) offensive ratings.

With the third overall pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft and $70 million in cap space, the team has the resources to add talented players to increase their offensive production. The question is: Will the Pats’ ownership spend the money, and who will oversee the offense? That will be one of the central questions facing Jerod Mayo, a defense-minded coach. There is intense speculation that current offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will be replaced, but by whom?

The Patriots have gone through three offensive coordinators during the first three years of quarterback Mac Jones’ career, a point that many critics see as the failure of the young signal caller that the team drafted 15th out of Alabama in 2021, only to see him benched during part of last year and this past season. There is also much criticism of Belichick’s failure to address offensive deficiencies (i.e., bringing in better players at the offensive line and wide receiver positions) since Tom Brady left the team in 2020.

With the ending of the Bill Belichick Era, his Hall of Fame body of work and legendary coaching status must be put in perspective. He finishes his Patriots career with 333 wins, second only to Don Shula with 347. His New England teams have reached the Super Bowl nine times and were victorious in six. A few of those wins will always be considered “suspect” due to the “Spygate” and “Deflate-gate” penalties (both proven to be confirmed) levied against the franchise by the NFL. 

It has been queried on many occasions that if Belichick was such a coaching genius, as many have proclaimed, why did he cheat to win?

Add to the fact that he bullied and talked down to the media far too many times; it is easy to see why there are some in the Fourth Estate who are pleased to see him leave this area following two losing seasons, including the 4-13 record that brought his tenure in New England to an abrupt ending.

But today is a new day. The Patriots have a new head football coach and new challenges, the top question being: Will Patriots owner Robert Kraft spend the money to fix up the damage on the offensive side of the ball left by Belichick?

New Patriots head coach Mayo will soon find out.

Bill Belichick, football, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, Sports