Phil Perry

Patriots confident Jerod Mayo will provide a fresh perspective

There could be some changes in New England following Bill Belichick's exit.

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FOXBORO -- Jerod Mayo was drafted by Bill Belichick. He played under Belichick for the better part of a decade, and he was jokingly called "Jerod Belichick" by Tom Brady because of his strong relationship with the head coach. Mayo was recruited by Belichick to get into the coaching ranks in 2019 and has worked as Belichick's assistant for the last five years.

Mayo has now been named Bill Belichick's successor, per league sources, which has been the plan for some time. 

When Mayo signed a new contract with the Patriots last offseason, it included a provision that identified him as the next Patriots head coach, allowing the team to bypass the standard league-mandated hiring procedures. Though enticing head-coaching candidates like former Titans coach Mike Vrabel and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh are available, Robert Kraft did not waver and stuck with his long-held plan to elevate Mayo as the replacement for the man Kraft called "the greatest coach of all times" on Thursday.

While Mayo has spent a significant percentage of his adult life around Belichick, functioning as a key cog in Belichick's football operation, he represents a meld which has been familiar to the Patriots for decades while also providing something much different from a stylistic and philosophical perspective.

Like Belichick, Mayo was influenced early in his life by someone with a military background who valued hard work and discipline. His grandfather, Walter Johnson, was a chief master sergeant in the Air Force and helped raise Mayo and his three brothers. 

But those who know both coaches would say that it would be a mistake to assume Mayo will simply run an identical program. When it comes to cultivating relationships with players and staff and having differing team-building philosophies, sources indicate, expect change.

"With Mayo, I think you'll see more collaboration," said a team front-office source. "More transparency. I'd embrace it."

The energy in the building could experience a shift as well.

"Leader in the locker room," former Patriots running back James White told the Next Pats Podcast, describing Mayo as "very different" from Belichick. 

"Very vocal. Very, very vocal. Very loud. Which is a good thing. Whether it's 7 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., he was always loud. But he was a good football player, and he's been a great coach. 

"Being around him, same team, same locker room as him. He has the linebackers prepared, ready to go. Obviously he has his hand in the defense getting prepared and ready to go as well. He was a smart football player. Smart coach. He knows the game. Knows how to get guys going. Knows ways to get guys prepared. He'd be another great fit."

Mayo has been the linebackers coach for the Patriots in title, but he has been their de facto defensive coordinator without the play-calling duties, which have been handled by fellow assistant Steve Belichick. Over the last three years, the Patriots defense has been eighth, third and fourth in the league in expected points added (EPA) allowed. Mayo has been vital in setting defensive game plans, leading defensive meetings for several years, players say.

Now he'll have an opportunity to lead full-squad meetings as the youngest coach in the NFL and the 15th in franchise history.

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It's worth wondering why the Patriots opted not to interview external candidates -- even familiar external candidates like Vrabel or Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores -- since those conversations could provide ownership with fresh perspectives on where their organization stands after 24 years under one football czar. But Mayo has been a coveted head-coaching candidate for some time in the NFL, and there existed the threat of Mayo departing for a greater opportunity. 

Before turning down a head-coaching interview with the Panthers last offseason, Mayo already had taken interviews over multiple offseasons with the Eagles, Broncos and Raiders for their head openings.

Mayo preferred to maintain his linebacker title role in New England when negotiating his latest contract because as "linebackers coach" he had greater flexibility. If a promotion awaited him with another team -- whether as head coach or defensive coordinator -- he could leave for that opportunity even if under contract in New England.

By acknowledging Mayo as successor in his latest deal, though, there was an understanding on both sides of the plan ahead.

Now they're there. And Mayo has an opportunity to blend the old with the new to forge a new path for a team looking to get back on track to contention.

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