Tom E. Curran

The Patriots are all-in on Jerod Mayo. Is he set up to succeed?

New England's new head coach has a tall task in front of him.

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Nobody envisioned 4-13. Nobody envisioned an offense that would fail to score a single touchdown in six of 17 games. 

When the Krafts gave Jerod Mayo and Bill Belichick contracts last offseason that were timed to expire after next year, that was when the succession plan was designed to kick in. 

But 4-13 happened. Now, ownership will stick to its commitment to have the 37-year-old Mayo take over a team that’s in worse shape than anyone imagined it would be. 

We always presumed there was a hard floor for a Bill Belichick-coached team. Their average was superior, their below average was still good. A 7-9 season in 2020 with Cam Newton in for Tom Brady was proof. So was going 8-9 in 2022 with an offense coordinated by a defensive coordinator.

The ineptitude in 2023 was wholly unexpected. Which meant Robert Kraft was kind of forced to stop saber-rattling and follow through on the ultimatums he’d been very directly issuing to Belichick

Which, of course, meant the contractually agreed-upon pivot to Mayo. The contract language allowing Mayo to be named immediate successor no doubt led to the Patriots being unmoved by the news earlier this week that Mike Vrabel was available. 

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Would they have been interested in at least sitting with Vrabel if they weren’t contractually bound? Given they went 4-13, would they have wanted to interview more experienced candidates rather than have a first-time head coach getting the reins to replace a legend and author a rebuild?

The bottom line is, the Krafts didn’t want to lose Mayo. He’s resisted taking coaching titles for one simple reason: He didn’t want to be blocked from advancing if other opportunities arose. 

His coaching star was rising and -- since a coach is blocked from going to a new opportunity if it’s a lateral move -- he wanted to have mobility and control. 

To ensure Mayo -- who’s carried the title “linebackers coach” -- wouldn’t go out the door as so many other Patriots assistants have, the team put it in writing that he’d be the successor. 

Given the whole timeline’s been accelerated, the question now becomes whether Mayo is set up to succeed. How quickly can he get the Patriots back into contention?

When Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots went from 8-8 to 5-11. And even though 2000 was a teardown season,  the foundational players remaining from the previous decade -- Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Drew Bledsoe, Bruce Armstrong, Ted Johnson, Terry Glenn -- formed a far better core of talent than Mayo has now. 

Further, Belichick had a host of coaches around him he’d grown with for nearly two decades like coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. And Belichick joined a Patriots franchise and retained the greatest offensive line coach in league history, Dante Scarnecchia. 

Mayo doesn’t have those things. Which means this rebuild is going to take a village. Mayo is the point of the spear but the support he will get from Bill O’Brien (presumed to be staying as offensive coordinator) and the rest of the staff that stays will be indispensable. 

Belichick was spread far too thin the past few years because he kept a tiny staff and dealt with attrition through retirements and defections. 

It’s not a stretch to say this fire started on the offensive line once Scarnecchia went into his well-deserved retirement.  

Who will be on Mayo’s staff? Who will Belichick want to take with him? What’s the personnel setup? 

What’s the Patriots plan for spending the third overall pick so that they never wind up in the top 10 again based on record?

The franchise is facing questions it didn’t expect to encounter until after next year - if at all. And Mayo will be the one the region looks to for answers.

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