On the surface, it’s a head scratcher.
How could a 34-year-old guy with just two years of coaching experience of any kind, and even that as a mere position coach, be ready to interview for an NFL head coaching job?
But that’s exactly the position Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo reportedly finds himself in, getting a chance to sell himself to the Eagles for Philly’s head coaching job that became available when the team parted ways with Super Bowl-winner Doug Pederson this week.
While the WTF reaction might be expected, an argument can actually be made that Mayo makes a lot of sense for an Eagles team that seemed somewhat dysfunctional at times in 2020.
In fact, just as Mayo was added to the candidate mix for the Eagles, The Philadelphia Enquirer ran a story headlined, “The Eagles are looking for a leader, not necessarily an offensive genius, to be their next head coach.”
Leadership. Now, that’s a box that Mayo certainly checks off.
The former All-Pro linebacker and 2008 first-round pick out of Tennessee was elected a Patriots team captain in just his second NFL season. It was a role he then held for each of his final seven NFL seasons before injuries pushed him into retirement after the 2015 campaign.
With his playing days over, Mayo turned to a career in business and finance, getting an inside look at corporate culture working for Optum before his love of football lured him back to the sport and a spot on Bill Belichick’s retooled defensive coaching staff in 2019. He’s had a significant voice on the defensive side of the ball in New England over the last two years.
According to the Enquirer, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s “top priority right now is bringing in the best football CEO he can find.”
While Mayo may not seemingly make sense on paper given his short, limited resume, under the right structure and surrounded by the right staff he’s not a guy to bet against. Anyone who’s ever been around Mayo has felt his natural leadership abilities and most have speculated that he’s on track to be a head coach someday, now maybe just sooner than anyone would have projected.
“No matter who we [hire], it needs to be a leader of coaches, a leader of players,” Lurie told the Enquirer. “Leadership is an important characteristic.”
Traditional NFL thinking means that NFL head coaches come from two places – college or the ranks of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinators. But, obviously, such traditional thinking fails more often than not.
It also has led to many teams where the coordinator-turned-head coach is too focused on his side of the ball and too dismissive of the rest of the team. The Jets have seen that up close in recent years. Rex Ryan clearly focused on his defense. Adam Gase clearly focused on his offense, barely having a working relationship with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Non-traditional NFL thinking has had its hits of late.
Former special teams coach John Harbaugh has been an obvious success in Baltimore. Former Patriots special teams coordinator and one-year wide receivers coach Joe Judge has already been given some credit for changing the culture with the Giants.
Maybe Mayo isn’t the man for the Eagles job. Or maybe the situation in Philadelphia isn’t the right job for him, especially given the questionable working conditions under GM Howie Roseman.
But if the Eagles truly are looking for the best leader they can find, then Mayo isn’t such a crazy candidate in Philly.