Patriots smart to let Jerod Mayo develop as coach first

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots reacts after he sacked Matt Moore #8 of the Miami Dolphins in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots reacts after he sacked Matt Moore #8 of the Miami Dolphins in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

Though given the opportunity to call defensive plays during minicamp, Bill Belichick is wise to retain those powers for himself until Jerod Mayo is ready.

Make no mistake – Jerod Mayo’s future as a coach is already burning bright. He’s only been on the job for a little more than three months now, and already there’s a palpable sense around the Patriots‘ locker room and in the media reports coming out of Foxborough that Mayo is a star on the rise.

The 33-year-old New England inside linebackers coach has spent his entire life around the game of football, and his sheer talent and physical abilities as a player were only ever surpassed by his above-average instincts, mental acuity, and legendary work ethic… three traits that are already serving him well in his new role on the sidelines.

Patriots players understandably love him. NBC Sports’ Jacob Camenker noted just how many of them ranted and raved during last month’s minicamp about all that Mayo instantly brings with him to the table.

“The same stuff (Mayo) carried when he was a player, he’s definitely still got it,” said Dont’a Hightower. “He’s a hell of a coach. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less. He’s got so much knowledge and so much wisdom that he brings – not just as a football player. He’s definitely done it. He’s seen it. He’s played it. The reputation that he has, he’s an all-pro, so it’s great to have a linebacker coach who has been through so much and can relate to a lot.”

Fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy agreed:

“I didn’t get to play with him [as a Patriot]. I missed him by a little bit. But since he’s gotten back in the building, I’ve come to admire how hard he works and the energy he brings each and every day. He’s consistent and his leadership is contagious. He does a really good job.”

Even Bill Belichick, who’s been at this whole coaching thing for over 40 years now, seemed to recognize quickly just what he had in Mayo as a coach. He gave him the opportunity as the inside linebackers coach right off the bat, despite Mayo’s prior lack of any professional coaching experience or even any previous work as an assistant.

And then he did Mayo one further, letting the former team captain relay the defensive signals to the second and third-string units from the sideline during minicamp, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe.

Because of these votes of confidence, speculation ran rampant throughout the month of June that Mayo could be in line for permanent defensive play-calling duties this season… he was just that good. After all, this is a player who went from starring on the Patriots’ defense for eight seasons, straight into hosting podcasts and making frequent media appearances in which he’d lend his expertise and analysis to his former team. Mayo certainly fits the bill as a defensive coordinator-in-waiting.

Especially given the recent exodus of defensive coaches from the staff (Matt Patricia, Brian Flores, even [sort of] Greg Schiano), there seemed to be a natural path for Mayo to assume the position and corresponding responsibilities if he wanted them and was ready for it.

That day may still come, but it looks like it won’t be before this season gets underway.

Another report from Howe confirms that Belichick, not Mayo, will call defensive plays in 2019 and be directly responsible for that side of the ball. It’s not necessarily a surprise given Belichick’s reputation as a defensive mastermind and his many years of experience, but it’s still worth discussing a bit just since Mayo has experienced such a meteoric rise.

It would be folly to suggest this news has anything to do with either Mayo’s job performance waning or with Belichick needing his own ego to be caressed. Rather, this development is a direct reflection of Belichick reminding us all why he’s the greatest coach of all time, because he’s intelligent and patient enough to restrain from rushing Mayo along before he’s truly ready.

As a dual head coach and general manager of a professional football team, Belichick undoubtedly has an unending and relentless mountain of work he needs to tackle any given moment of the day. It’d be all too easy to turn to a bright young mind like Mayo, someone the players clearly already relate to and respect, and give him the keys to the Patriots’ defensive Ferrari. No one could blame Belichick if he wanted to do that and lighten his own load and stress in the process.

But that’s not Bill “No Days Off” Belichick. He knows that as much upside as Mayo has, it wouldn’t be right to thrust the responsibility of defensive play-calling on him this quickly.

Instead, by shouldering that role himself for at least season, Belichick is allowing Mayo the opportunity to cut his teeth and take whatever lumps he needs to as he gets fully acclimated to coaching full-time in the NFL… without any of the added pressure or scrutiny that comes from being even a “de facto” defensive coordinator like Flores was last season.

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Hopefully, if all goes according to plan and both men do their jobs this season, perhaps this time next year we’ll see Mayo promoted to defensive coordinator and Belichick can go back to focusing on head coaching and general managing. If all really goes according to plan, they each might even have a Super Bowl 54 championship ring to show for their patience and dedication.