Jerod Mayo replaces Bill Belichick: What’s next for Patriots, including the NFL draft

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The New England Patriots are hiring Jerod Mayo as the 15th head coach in franchise history, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter, transitioning quickly after parting ways with Bill Belichick on Thursday.

Mayo, who turns 38 on Feb. 23, becomes the youngest head coach in the NFL and had been identified as a top target by Patriots owner Robert Kraft for some time.

Taking a closer look, Patriots reporter Mike Reiss answers four big questions about the Mayo hiring, including what comes next. National reporter Jeremy Fowler dishes on what he’s hearing about the hire, and draft analyst Jordan Reid spins it forward to the draft. Finally, front office analyst Mike Tannenbaum grades the hire.

Let’s get to it.

Who is Jerod Mayo and what makes him a good fit?

Reiss: Mayo is a former Patriots linebacker (2008-15) whose leadership was evident when he was elected a captain in his second season — a rare feat in New England. He worked in finance upon his retirement from football before being recruited back to the coaching staff under Belichick in 2019 to coach linebackers.

Some teammates used to refer to him as “Bill Jr.” because his combination of football intelligence and long hours reminded them of Belichick. His head-coaching candidacy had notable support among defensive players in the locker room, and he previously interviewed with the Eagles and Broncos. The Panthers had requested an interview last year, but Mayo elected to stay in New England.

How did this hire happen so quickly?

Reiss: When the Patriots signed Mayo to a contract extension last offseason, they wrote succession plans into the contract that allows them to forgo a traditional NFL coaching search. Sources said the projected plan was for that to happen after the 2024 season, but the Patriots’ 4-13 campaign accelerated the timeline.

This has similarities to what the Ravens did in their general manager transition from Ozzie Newsome to Eric DeCosta in 2019, the Indianapolis Colts in their head-coaching transition from Tony Dungy to Jim Caldwell in 2008 and the Seattle Seahawks in their head-coaching transition from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora in 2008.

What are the biggest changes we can expect moving from Belichick to Mayo?

Reiss: Mayo said his approach is to “coach out of love” because “once you build that relationship with a guy, you can be tough on the players.” That projected culture would be a notable shift from Belichick, who developed strong relations with players through a bottom-line-business approach. Also, Belichick had retained final say on personnel for most of his tenure. It is unlikely the Patriots will give Mayo final say on personnel.

Will the Patriots hire a general manager to work with Mayo?

Reiss: Yes, and the search is likely to include internal candidates. The current structure has director of player personnel Matt Groh, director of scouting Eliot Wolf, senior personnel advisor Patrick Stewart, college scouting coordinator Camren Williams, and director of pro scouting Steve Cargile in leading roles.

What are you hearing around the league on the hire?

Fowler: This is not a shocking move, since the Patriots dropped a major hint last offseason when announcing a new contract for Mayo. Rarely do the Patriots announce an assistant coaching extension. But this one, it turns out, was a special case, with the groundwork for a succession plan.

Mike Vrabel was the natural external fit, but he was more the shiny new toy than an actual candidate, as it turns out. I’ve heard from a few coaches this morning who would have liked to see the Patriots run a broad search. But since the NFL’s revamped hiring practices are designed to provide more opportunities for minority candidates, this is a good one for Mayo, whom many league execs have circled as head-coach material for a while now.

Are the Patriots definitely drafting a new quarterback for Mayo at No. 3? Would the signal-callers available there be immediate upgrades over Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe?

Reid: The options at No. 3 become even more interesting with Mayo getting the New England job. The Pats are right in the middle of the quarterback hunt and in position to add one of Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina) or Jayden Daniels (LSU). Any of them would be an immediate upgrade over the Pats’ current personnel under center. The Patriots were 31st in QBR this season at 31.5, so it’s the biggest need.

But entertaining a trade-back scenario is also possible, with teams like the Giants, Falcons, Vikings and Raiders all outside the top five and in need of quarterback help. I could see a scenario where the Patriots trade back and pivot to adding a veteran quarterback via free agency — or drafting Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) or Bo Nix (Oregon) on Day 2.

New England also lacks talent at the skill positions and could take advantage of a deep WR class. Both starting tackles (Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu) are set to become free agents, which also makes offensive tackle an early-round possibility.

How would you grade this hire?

Tannenbaum: B. I like it from the standpoint that they’ve gotten to know Mayo over the years, much the same way they got to know Belichick during the 1996 season (he was the defensive backs coach there) before eventually hiring him as their head coach in 2000. But it’s really important that Mayo now hires an experienced staff — and ideally a former head coach as the offensive coordinator. Arthur Smith would fit that bill.

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