Much of the attention early this offseason in New England has been focused on the team’s search for a new offensive coordinator, and rightfully so.
Bill Belichick’s decision to fill the void left by longtime offensive mastermind Josh McDaniels’ departure a year ago with the combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was the undoing of the Patriots’ 2022 season long before it got underway. Mac Jones paid the price. Viewers and fans all paid the price.
So the potential arrival of seemingly perfect candidate Bill O’Brien or any other competent offensive mind should stabilize and legitimize the offense in New England and bring potential back to Jones’ future in Foxborough.
But there is something else seemingly transpiring this offseason at Gillette Stadium that could be as important or more so to the future of the entire franchise than who is calling plays and coddling Jones’ development moving forward.
Over the last week-plus it’s become pretty clear that former Patriots All-Pro linebacker, team captain and most recently linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is seeing his voice and role become much stronger at Gillette Stadium.
First came the unprecedented press release announcing that the team and Belichick were working on a contract extension to keep the rising coaching star Mayo in New England moving forward. It was a bold move for a coach and team that generally keep their plans tight to the vest and keep assistant coaches in the dark about even their own futures. This time, though, the Patriots essentially professed their love for Mayo for all the world to read.
Then, the 36-year-old Mayo himself return the favor to some degree by turning down a couple interview opportunities he had for open jobs elsewhere, a defensive coordinator position in Cleveland and the head coaching opening in Carolina. It was certainly a sign of commitment for a guy who, on paper away, was little more than a lowly position coach for the Patriots.
Now, we even find out that Mayo, who as recently as last August was joking (grousing?) that he didn’t even have a title or business card in New England, was sitting by Belichick’s side for all the Zoom interviews that the team held with O’Brien and the other four reported offensive coordinator candidates. He was, to some virtual world degree, either Belichick’s right- or left-hand man for the most anticipated, scrutinized, necessary decision the Patriots have made in quite some time.
Once upon a time McDaniels spurned the Colts’ head coaching job to remain in New England and have Belichick open up his coaching and team-building world to him.
More recently Patricia returned to the organizational fold to seemingly help his mentor Belichick in all aspects of the year-long football process, from contracts and draft day work to on-field practice guidance and, unfortunately, offensive play-calling.
Now, though, it appears that Mayo is the latest right-hand man at Belichick’s side. His exact role for 2023 in New England and beyond has yet to be disclosed and may never be to outsiders, but it’s hard to imagine he isn’t getting a significant bump in both title and pay to coincide with the apparent jump in say.
Mayo feels like a fully vested made man at Gillette Stadium these days. Feels like he’s jumped way up the organization ladder in a way that likely isn’t just about how Belichick feels about the team’s No. 10 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but also probably comes with some blessing from the Kraft family as well.
Is Mayo the head coach-in-waiting as Belichick approaches his 71st birthday and pursues Don Shula’s NFL all-time wins record? Maybe that’s a stretch at this point in the process, less than a year after Patricia was seen as such in the eyes of some.
But it’s quite clear that Mayo has taken on a much larger position in the football operation in New England this offseason.
And that certainly feels like a good thing for everyone involved.
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