New England Patriots: Who is really calling the defensive plays?

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and safties coach Steve Belichick walk the field before Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and safties coach Steve Belichick walk the field before Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Patriots have both Jerod Mayo and Stephen Belichick sending in defensive signals. Is either one of them calling the plays, or is that Bill Belichick?

Through the first eight weeks of the season, it’s still a bit unknown who is calling the defensive plays for the New England Patriots. Is it Stephen Belichick, Jerod Mayo, or the mastermind himself, Bill Belichick?

Stephen Belichick is a former college lacrosse and football player from Rutgers University. Stephen was a defense-man on the lacrosse team, and he was a long-snapper in football under Greg Schiano, Belichick’s long-time associate and friend.

When Stephen Belichick graduated from Rutgers in 2012, he joined the New England Patriots coaching staff as a defensive assistant. Ironically enough, Stephen was on the coaching staff in 2014 during Super Bowl XLIX, when fellow defensive coach Jerod Mayo was still playing for the senior Belichick.

Over the course of Stephen’s tenure here in New England, he has since been named as the safeties coach. It could appear that he may even be calling in some defensive plays from time to time, although it’s still hard to tell if he’s doing it full time though.

In the wake of Greg Schiano not joining the New England Patriots coaching staff and becoming what would have been assumed the defensive coordinator for the team, Jerod Mayo got hired shortly after as the inside linebackers coach for the Pats.

Jerod Mayo played seven seasons in the NFL before he retired (all for the Patriots, who drafted him 10th overall in 2008). Many say he still had a lot of good years left in his tank before he retired in 2015. After a few years of becoming an NFL analyst with NBC Sports Boston, Mayo brought his talent and passion back to the field.

Mayo fits in great with the coaching staff and system, partly because he was once a part of it all himself at one point in his career, and excelled at practicing what he now preaches. The other aspect is him just being an intelligent football-minded person. Forming a firm grasp of what Bill Belichick expected from his defense right from the onset as a pro, Mayo was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.

There are even still a few of the guys left on defense that Mayo was teammates with from his playing days. He was a leader on the field as a player, and sometimes those types of players one day make great coaches. Mayo’s “Boogeymen” linebacker-corps is the best in the NFL this season.

Sometimes it looks like he’s the one calling plays in, just like it does with Stephen Belichick. Comparing the two young coaches of Jerod Mayo and Stephen Belichick, and not to discredit Stephen Belichick in any way, but the argument could be made that Mayo would be the one to call in the defensive plays, as he has more actual football experience than Stephen Belichick as a player.

Mayo would conceivably have a better understanding of what Bill Belichick is expecting in certain situations. He has also been executing game-plans that Bill Belichick has made for the better part of his career. Mayo knows exactly what the players are going through and talking about on different plays; that experience, as a coach, is invaluable to have.

Bill Belichick has always been a defensive-minded coach, and even though it may not look like it at times, he has his signature on everything. He knows every in and out of his team, and makes certain that they’re always in the best position possible to be successful.

A majority of the time, we see Bill Belichick on the sideline with nothing but his headset and little memo pad. Most coaches have the tablet and are running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but not Bill. Bill doesn’t panic because he knows all the answers to his team’s questions and situations.

Sometimes it looks like he’s yelling at offense or defense when they’re each on the sideline and people speculate as to Bill being angry, but have you been to a home game at Gillette Stadium and heard how loud it is? He has to yell, just to be heard over the crowd noise and in-stadium entertainment.

All in all, no matter who’s calling the plays – Stephen Belichick, Jerod Mayo, or Bill Belichick – it’s working to perfection. In fact, it’s all working out so well that this defense is more than likely going down as the greatest in NFL history if they keep up their level of play from the first half of the season. Defense also wins championships, right?

To answer the question of play-calling, I think it’s both Stephen and Jerod calling the plays, perhaps alternating depending on the situation.

Regardless of who is doing what exactly, we do know that Jerod Mayo is setting the linebackers and talking to Jamie Collins and/or Dont’a Hightower, who both often wear the green-dot as the “Mike” linebacker that communicates with and sets the other ‘backers in proper formation.

We also know that Stephen Belichick is setting up and dealing with the defensive backs and coverages primarily, rather than the interior part of the defense. As far as the linemen go, they play the proper position for the linebackers to perform their stunts, and are under direct coaching and supervision from Bret Bielema.

This defense has carried this Patriots team to eight victories so far this season. New England is once again looking like a strong contender for yet another Super Bowl trip. Considering everything this team has gone through, this season will truly be a test of how great the defense really is from a historical standpoint.

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Pay special attention during the next game – this Sunday night versus the Baltimore Ravens – to the New England sideline. Perhaps with enough focus and study, there might be some definitive clues as to who exactly is calling the defensive plays this season for the Patriots.