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Six Defensive Coordinator Candidates for Jerod Mayo

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New England Patriots coaches Steve Belichick, left, and Jerod Mayo, right, against Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL football game against the Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

The New England Patriots hired a new head coach in Jerod Mayo. The next step will be filling out Mayo’s coaching staff in New England. Many of these decisions will not be made until the other head coaching jobs are filled throughout the NFL. Specifically, there will a question of which coaches follow Bill Belichick to his next destination and which ones will remain with Mayo in Foxboro.

Early rumors indicate the offensive coordinator in 2024 will be either Bill O’Brien, who remains under contract, or Josh McDaniels. If other candidates emerge along the way, possibly by eliminating those known commodities, a later article will be devoted to that side of the ball. For now, a look at the next leader of New England’s defense.

The Patriots shied away from traditional job titles for much of Bill Belichick’s tenure with the team. In recent seasons Mayo appeared to be the de facto defensive coordinator, as he ran the defensive meetings. However, Steve Belichick called the defensive plays during games. For now, the assumption here is that there will be a DC in place in 2024. Here are several solid candidates to fill the role.

Steve Belichick

It is widely assumed that Steve Belichick will follow his father to Bill Belichick’s next destination. However, this is not a given. Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo are reportedly very close, and have enjoyed an excellent partnership running the Patriots defense. Belichick called the plays for a defensive unit that impressed in 2023, despite the team’s lackluster record. Staying in New England could also benefit Steve Belichick’s coaching career.

Working under a head coach other than Bill Belichick is a solid next step is carving out his own place in the NFL. He is respected by players, and along with Mayo would help provide a sense of stability for the defense. Obviously, nobody would blame Steve Belichick if he opted to follow his father out the door. The opportunity to work alongside his dad is one that both father and son clearly cherish. It is also hard to say if there would be any animosity toward the Kraft family for the way Bill Belichick’s time in New England ended. But of in-house candidates with the Patriots, which seems incredibly important at the moment, Steve Belichick is the top option.

Brian Flores

Flores was the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings this past season. This would be a lateral move of sorts, so it would be based on the relationship between Mayo and Flores. Brian Flores was an assistant coach on the New England staff throughout Jerod Mayo’s playing career with the Patriots (2008-to-2016). Flores spent 15 years in Foxboro (2004-to-2018) making him very familiar to Robert and Jonathan Kraft. Again, this appears to be important criteria in New England.

Not only is Flores a Bill Belichick disciple, he also spent time on Mike Tomlin’s staff in Pittsburgh and with Kevin O’Connell in Minnesota. Most importantly, Flores also has head coaching experience. His time with the Miami Dolphins could prove a great benefit to a first-time head coach in Mayo. If Flores could bring free agent edge Danielle Hunter (16.5 sacks in 2023) from the Vikings with him, nobody in Foxboro would object.

Josh Boyer

Another assistant coach from Mayo’s playing days with the Patriots, Boyer was a defensive assistant with the Patriots from 2006 to 2018. He left New England to follow Brian Flores to Miami, where he was originally the defensive pass-game coordinator. He was promoted to defensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2020, a position he held for three seasons. Boyer actually outlasted Flores in South Florida, staying on as DC in Mike McDaniel’s first year as head coach in 2022.

Boyer was fired following the 2022 season, and was not employed in the NFL this past season. Boyer’s defenses with the Dolphins had solid years and struggles. The 2020 Dolphins led the league in takeaways, but by 2022 they had plummeted to 30. They remained disciplined however, being among the least penalized defenses in the NFL.

Patrick Graham

Graham is currently the Raiders defensive coordinator, but Las Vegas is currently a team without a head coach. If interim head coach Antonio Pierce is retained, keeping Graham on staff will surely be a high priority. However, if a new Raiders head coach wants to select their own staff, Graham could find himself as one of the hottest free agent assistants in football.

Patrick Graham is not currently a favorite for any head coach openings, but he has been interviewed. The Los Angeles Chargers recently interviewed Graham for their head coaching vacancy. Furthermore, the Raiders reportedly denied a request from an NFL franchise for Graham to interview for that team’s DC position. Las Vegas wants their head coach hire to decide on all current staff members before letting anyone make a lateral move. So, whether Graham is even available to be a candidate remains in question.

Brendan Daly

The Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach was a defensive assistant on the last three New England Patriots teams to win a Super Bowl. Daily joined the Chiefs staff in 2019, and has since won two more rings in Kansas City. The 48-year old Daly has worked on the staffs on Brad Childress (Minnesota), Steve Spagnuolo (St. Louis), Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Bill Belichick (New England) and Andy Reid (Kansas City).

After 18 seasons as NFL assistant, Brendan Daly could be the top candidate outside of the organization without coordinator experience. With the Chiefs still playing this season, he has a chance to have as many rings as anyone in the building if he returned to the New England Patriots.

Tem Lukabu

The one name from outside of the “Patriots family” linked to the job is Carolina Panthers outside linebackers coach Tem Lukabu. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network announced that the Patriots are interviewing Lukabu for their defensive coordinator opening. The 42-year old has NFL experience on the staffs in San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Carolina. He served as the Boston College defensive coordinator from 2020 to 2022.

Lukabu would seem to be the candidate here with the least experience and the least connection to the New England Patriots. He is, however, the only confirmed interview at this time.