The New England Patriots reportedly had a contractual agreement in place to hire new Head Coach Jerod Mayo for some time. Clearly, they like Jerod, and frankly, who doesn't? He was a terrific player and had been coaching as an assistant under now-fired Head Coach, Bill Belichick for about five years. It's a good baseline resume, but was Jerod Mayo the right hire at this time?
Popular opinion says that he was and is. But here, the feeling is it's premature. Mayo has never been a head coach or official coordinator at any level. While that's not an absolute necessity, this is a very desirable attribute.
Let's explore that and other reasons why hiring Mayo as Head Coach at this time may have been the wrong decision, one in a whole line of other choices that Owner Robert Kraft has got wrong, at present.
New England Patriots Head Coach Jerod Mayo's qualifications
Jerod Mayo has been an excellent assistant coach for the Patriots, especially as linebackers' coach. Yet, not having been named defensive coordinator is a bit troubling. Coordinators get hired all the time as new Head Coaches. Some work, and others flop. So, of itself, it's not a huge necessity.
However, it is a good stepping stone to being able to come to a team and take the reins of the entire coaching operation. That would be one possible drawback. In addition, not having served as head coach of any team in college or the NFL is also not an optimum situation.
Head coaches learn, sometimes the hard way, but the best of them learn, and then, if they fail, they can get it right the next time. Mayo has no learning experience as a Head Coach anywhere to fall back on. It's troubling. Belichick flopped in Cleveland and then, having seemingly learned from his mistakes, came back (along with the great good fortune of stumbling into the best quarterback ever) and has had a Hall of Fame career. That time in charge is always helpful.
In addition, Mayo was a defensive player and a defensive coach exclusively. That's all well and good, but the Patriots, as currently situated, are a team with a good and potentially great defense with returning stars Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez. The problem is the offense. Mayo has no offensive credentials whatsoever.
Now, the argument can be made that a defensive coach, in actuality, does have an offensive "experience" since he has to prepare for opposition offenses every week. It's a fair point. But on a team whose offense was the team's weak spot, not having been an offensive coach or a head coach in charge of an offense previously is, again, not the greatest situation.
New England Patriots had a ready-made experienced option available to them
As if by a strike of lightning or at least good fortune, Robert Kraft had an option become available to him for head coach like a bolt out of the blue. After six years at the helm, Mike Vrabel was fired as head Coach of the Tennessee Titans. Speculation abounds that he may have been sacked partly because of his apparent affinity for the New England Patriots.
Vrabel had four out of six good seasons with the Titans. With that experience and success, he is widely regarded as a top NFL battle-tested head coach. Vrabel was the better choice for Kraft, and he made the decision seemingly based on at least two critical factors.
The first was one deserves approbation, even if the ultimate decision was not the right one. Kraft had reportedly committed Mayo, as noted, even contractually. He is a man of his word, and that is never a negative, ever. It's the correctness of putting that stipulation into a contract. However, that is highly debatable. Things and circumstances change, as they did with Vrabel's surprising and sudden availability.
Kraft had locked himself into hiring Mayo unless he were to go back on his word and the agreement. He foolishly put himself in a bind and evidently felt obligated to go through with it. It wasn't the best decision for the New England Patriots, however.
Vrabel was the better choice. To some extent, Kraft decided with his heart instead of his head. He likes Mayo, and, again, who doesn't? But liking a candidate and turning over your now listless, last-place franchise to him is another thing altogether.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft botched another major decision
Kraft mangled the Brady situation in 2019. He then has just once again broomed one of the greatest at his job, Coach Belichick, rather than work out an accommodation that would have allowed Belichick to remain as coach and transfer some duties to a new general manager.
In addition, Kraft is now seemingly going to experiment with two former Belichick assistants in personnel on the most seminal draft in years in Foxborough. These are both poor decisions. An experienced coach like Vrabel was the play, and an experienced general manager is also the play. Kraft has now punted on both, at least for the moment.
That's a likely not-so-popular opinion on the Patriots hiring Jerod Mayo now as Head Coach. A great option was to hire Vrabel with a stipulation that Mayo becomes defensive coordinator and Assistant Head Coach, gleaning experience and getting the offensive side of his resume in order for the future.
Once again, Kraft was unable or unwilling to make a tough call that was right. We'll see what eventuates, but having Vrabel as head coach and maybe reuniting the now-available Arthur Smith as his offensive coordinator would have been a great and better situation.
Hopefully, all will work out, and the Patriots will return to NFL prominence if not predominance. We will all wish Mayo well and that he is an instant success. But head coaching experience counts, and Mayo has none. We'll see what eventuates, but the clear choice here was Vrabel as Head Coach, and it wasn't even that difficult of a decision.