With the Patriots' final game of the 2023 season taking place this Sunday, there has been a lot of talk about it possibly being Bill Belichick's last time as New England's head coach. Because of that, there's been a hyper-focus on who could potentially replace him, particularly those currently employed by the team.
Atop the list is Jerod Mayo, who has been seemingly groomed for the role over the last few years. It looked even more that way last offseason when he canceled his interviews with the Carolina Panthers for their vacant head coach position to return and sign an extension with the Patriots.
That was an indication there were long-term plans in the works, whether it be keeping Mayo on the sidelines as a defensive coach or eventually taking over as the head coach upon Belichick's retirement.
But some of that has come into question recently with rumors circulating about Robert Kraft's preference for Mike Vrabel and the ever so convenient timing of essentially a hit-piece on Mayo attacking his character and alleging problematic behavior behind the scenes.
The report wasn't taken all too seriously since it was the first anyone had heard of Mayo ruffling some feathers in the building, and given the context, it seemed like an attempt to change the perception of the rising coach as the season neared its end.
It's not a sentiment shared by the players who work with him on a daily basis, some of whom have for years at this point, as Mark Daniels of MassLive shared in a piece published earlier this week. The Patriots reporter spoke to 14 different members of the roster, asking for their opinion on Mayo, which seems more relevant with Belichick in the hot seat.
Jerod Mayo has made a strong impression on the Patriots locker room
The biggest takeaway from all that was said was the appreciation of Mayo's attitude. Nearly every player spoke highly of his relatable mindset since he is a former player, and his light-hearted nature that is very much needed in a tough season like this one.
Of the several responses Daniels received, here are the most standout answers that seem to prove just how much the players appreciate and respect the type of coach and man that Mayo is, which may be a sign of who they'd like to see replace Belichick if the legendary head coach moves on.
“He’s a players coach. Fiery, fun guy. Very playful, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. I think the combination of both goes a long way because at times it gets a little strenuous. It does get a little monotonous, so having a guy who can come in there and ease the tension but at the same time, he demands a standard from you. When you don’t play up to that standard, he’s going to let you know.” (Jabrill Peppers)
“He’s an unconventional coach. He really thinks outside the box. With him being a former player and being a good player, he’s able to use what he learned as a player and the way he was coached as a player and mold it and transform it into his own style. I think that’s what makes him good. Obviously, you have coaches that were former players, but not everyone can do that and not everybody can connect with each guy on the team. He has a real gift of connecting with people.” (Adrian Phillips)
“As a coach, he’s dynamic. Definitely helps you think outside of the box. Makes you think about stuff in terms of concepts rather than just what we’re doing as a defense or what they’re doing as an offense. He’s more so thinking ‘How is the offense thinking? How does the coordinator view you? How does he view our scheme?’ Things like that – helping you play plays in your head before they actually run them.” (Ja'Whaun Bentley)
“I think he does a good job of translating for us to where we understand. He brings a lot of energy and a lot of understanding. “He’s efficient. He tells you this is what you’re supposed to do. He gives you insight and wants to hear what you say about why you did what you did and he gives you from his experience or what it does when you think like that. He’s trying to give you perspective.” (Kyle Dugger)
Robert Kraft has his answer about the best in line to replace Bill Belichick
If there is any doubt about Mayo stepping into Belichick's shoes, it's clear the team would be completely supportive of the move. It wasn't an expected outcome of this season, as the assumption has always been that Belichick would finish his career in New England and ride off into the sunset whenever he decided to hang it up.
But that doesn't appear to be the obvious route anymore.
Making the decision will be one of the most difficult of Kraft's career and if he chooses to move on from the 8-time Super Bowl Champion coach, then deciding who is best to replace him could be just as tricky.
There might be some hesitation going with a younger guy like Mayo, and maybe even because he's also a defensive-minded coach. However, he's not only learned from the greatest coach of all time as a player, he's also learned from him from a coach-to-coach perspective. That should provide some comfort in knowing the kind of man you're putting into the role, right?
And if there was any concern about how a coaching change would go over in the locker room, there's no better way to understand how they'd react than hearing their praise and admiration for Mayo straight from the source.
“I would love to play for Mayo. I think anybody in this locker room would love to play for him. He’s just that type of guy.” (Adrian Phillips)
“Any team that gets him would be very lucky. Players love him. I love to play for him. He gets the best out of his players. At the same time, he understands as far as the culture and everything how to get everybody going. That’s what he’s done with the linebacker unit. It’ll be great for whatever team gets him.” (Ja"Whaun Bentley)
“He’d be a coach I want to play for. I’d run through a wall for him. I love players’ coaches. Guys that take it deeper than the X’s and O’s. It’s more personal. You want to go out and do a good job because you know you have someone behind you who’s backing and supporting you.
“S---, I’m all in on Mayo.” (Josh Uche)
With so much praise heaped onto him, it'll be interesting to see if Kraft takes any of it into consideration when making the final decision about who should coach the Patriots in 2024.