New England Patriots

What we learned about Jerod Mayo in first Patriots press conference

Expect quite a few changes in New England going forward.

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The Jerod Mayo Era is off and running in New England, and one thing is abundantly clear: It will be very different than the last 24 years.

The Patriots introduced Mayo as their new head coach Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, formally marking their first coaching transition since Bill Belichick replaced Pete Carroll in 2000. Mayo and team owner Robert Kraft both made statements before fielding questions for nearly 40 minutes, addressing a wide range of topics from the team's front office structure going forward to Mayo's coaching philosophy and much more.

While plenty of big-picture questions need answering, we'll focus in the short term on Mayo, and what we learned about the 37-year-old former Patriots linebacker who went from a brief career in business (at the health services company Optum) to position coach in New England to Belichick's successor and the first Black head coach in franchise history.

Here are four takeaways from Mayo's introductory press conference:

He plans to run things very differently than Belichick

This was easily the most notable observation of the day: Mayo is his own man running his own show.

"I don't like echo chambers," Mayo said. "I want people around me that are going to question my ideas or question the way we have done things in the past, because realistically, this game is a lot different than when I was drafted in 2008."

That could be interpreted as a dig at Belichick, who was notorious for surrounding himself with "loyalists" like Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge who could help carry out his football vision. But Mayo was very open about diverging from the Belichick Way throughout his press conference, suggesting he'll make a more concerted effort to relate to his players -- a contrast from Belichick's "tough love" approach.

"I think with this generation, you have to show them that you care about them before you get into competency as far as X's and O's are concerned," Mayo said. "That's one thing I feel like with all my coaches, they should know the players."

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One more concrete example of Mayo differing from Belichick? While Belichick generally downplayed official titles, Mayo appears to share the opposite view.

"I think titles are important," Mayo said. "No knock to Coach Belichick, who has been a huge mentor to me over the years as a player and as a colleague. What I would say is, I believe titles are important, outward-looking. But as far as in the building, I don't care what your title is. It's what's your job, what value do you bring to the organization? I think that's the most important thing."

Mayo clearly respects his former head coach, but he has no problem charting his own path.

He plans to put culture first

Mayo gave the standard company line when asked how he'll get the team to rebound from a 4-13 season, saying he'll evaluate every part of the organization. But his focus appears to be on getting the culture right in New England after two seasons of dysfunction.

"One thing we don't want to do is have people who are complainers or finger-pointing or things like that," Mayo said. "... You want your players to have a sense of accountability. You want your players to have a sense of commitment. ... We have a good foundation, and my thing here over the next few weeks is to rebuild some relationships, to knock down silos and collaborate."

Our Phil Perry reported that "cliques" formed on the Patriots' coaching staff in 2023, and it sounds like that won't stand under Mayo. It's unclear who will remain with the team and who Mayo will bring in, but he plans on rolling with coaches and players who are willing to collaborate and have positive attitudes.

 "As far as developing leaders, I think of it more as gardening," Mayo explained. "Gardeners really don't grow anything. They just make sure the soil is right. They grab the weeds out of there, they water it every day, and whatever grows, grows."

He's not afraid to speak his mind

Few new head coaches would essentially contradict their team owner in their first press conference, but that's more or less what Mayo did Wednesday.

When asked what hiring the first Black coach in Patriots history meant to him, Kraft responded by saying he's "colorblind" when it comes to hiring the best people for his franchise.

"I chose the best head coach for this organization. He happens to be a man of color," Kraft said.

Moments later, Mayo responded with a different answer.

"I appreciate (Kraft) and the organization selecting me to be a Black head coach," Mayo said. " ... What I will say, though, is I do see color, because I believe if you don't see color, you can't see racism. ... It goes back to whatever it is, black, white, yellow. It really doesn't matter, but it does matter, so we can try to fix a problem that we all know we have."

Mayo's response wasn't meant to show up Kraft; rather, he gave a thoughtful answer based on how he truly felt. Mayo's confidence to do and say what he thinks is right should bode well for his coaching future.

He has an interesting nickname for his boss...

Speaking of Kraft, we learned Wednesday that Mayo refers to the Patriots owner as "Thundercat," or "Thunder" for short.

"I call him young Thundercat," Mayo said of Kraft. "He has a young heart."

In fact, Mayo exclusively referred to Kraft as "Thunder" throughout the press conference, and Kraft seemed to enjoy it. Make what you will of that nickname, but Kraft clearly thinks very highly of his new head coach, revealing that a 2019 trip to Israel with Mayo solidified his conviction that Mayo should be Belichick's successor.

"While I've known Jerod for nearly 16 years, the week we spent together in the Holy Land in 2019 really helped strengthen my convictions about how special Jerod is as a person and how capable I thought he would be as a head coach in this league," Kraft said.

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