Why is Jerod Mayo such a hot coaching candidate?

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The commonly cited definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Yet almost every year, wayward NFL franchises hire Patriots assistant coaches to turn their fortunes around, despite their long collective track record of flaming out.

This offseason is no different, with Jerod Mayo’s name popping up in connection to several openings. The Raiders and Broncos have already requested interviews with the former linebacker, and the Texans are reportedly interested as well. But there’s little on Mayo’s resume that suggests he’s ready to be an NFL head coach, outside of spending a lot of time around Bill Belichick.

History shows you need more credentials than that.

The Patriots hired Mayo to be their inside linebackers coach in 2019, affording the Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler the deference that most young Belichick assistants don’t receive. Mayo wasn’t offered the infamous 20/20 deal, which equates to 20 hours of work per day for $20,000 per year. He was able to skip the darkened film rooms and jump right to the sideline. That summer, Patriots defenders confirmed Mayo was calling defensive plays in Brian Flores’ absence.

Three years later, Mayo’s role remains difficult to define. He’s believed to share responsibilities with Steve Belichick, who rose to viral infamy due to his penchant for sticking out his tongue all of the time. But nobody seems to know who’s in charge on defense. It was widely speculated that Bill Belichick took more control of the unit following the debacle against Dallas, in which the Patriots allowed 567 yards — the most yardage a Belichick defense has ever surrendered.

For a while, the preconceived narrative matched reality. The Patriots’ defense dominated over their seven-game winning streak, baffling every quarterback they faced: Justin Herbert threw a pick-six; Sam Darnold was once again seeing ghosts; Baker Mayfield looked completely lost. Bill Belichick reasserted himself on his favorite side of the ball, and performance improved.

Easy, right?

Then the losses starting coming. Jonathan Taylor ran all over the Patriots on that Saturday night in Indy; the Dolphins caught them flat-footed; the Bills never punted. While the Patriots defense finished second in points allowed, that doesn’t tell the whole story. At the end, they looked old and slow, with their linebackers specifically looking overmatched. Josh Allen tore them apart.

Worse, the Patriots appeared to quit Saturday night. The fatal blow came at the end of the first half, when mediocre running back Devin Singletary burst through the right side for a 16-yard score. There wasn’t a single Patriots player in sight.

The Patriots didn’t just get blown out Saturday. They were pantsed and humiliated. It was their worst playoff defensive performance since the Eagles racked up 538 yards in Super Bowl LI.

The Lions rewarded Matt Patricia with their head coaching job following that performance. Patricia led the Lions to a putrid 13-29-1 record before getting fired during the 2020 season.

Now he’s back, as one of Belichick’s mysterious voices from upstairs.

That’s not to say Mayo will fail spectacularly like Patricia or Josh McDaniels or Eric Mangini. But there’s little reason to think he will succeed, either. The 35-year-old has minimal coaching experience, and unlike other Belichick disciples, has never even been part of a championship staff.

Mayo is often compared to Mike Vrabel, whose Titans are the AFC’s top seed and one of the premier teams in the conference. While both men played linebacker under Belichick, the comparisons end there. Vrabel spent seven years as an assistant before getting the Tennessee head coaching job. He was a position coach at Ohio State from 2011-13 before moving over to the Texans’ staff in 2014. Vrabel coached linebackers in Houston for two years before moving to defensive coordinator in 2017.

In other words, Vrabel worked his way up the coaching ranks. Mayo’s coaching career is still in its infancy, and right now, the grade is incomplete.

We still don’t know whether he can coach linebackers, never mind lead a team and be the face of an organization.