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Kelley: Jerod Mayo Might Be Better Off Saying Less

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New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is interviewed prior to the introduction of first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez at Gillette Stadium, Friday April 28, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass.(AP Photo/Paul Connors)

The New England Patriots named Jerod Mayo their new head coach soon after “parting ways” with Bill Belichick in January. Belichick enjoyed a sensation run over his 24 seasons as head coach in New England. He is the winningest coach in the NFL’s Super Bowl Era, having amassed 333 victories, including postseason. Belichick won 17 AFC East titles, nine AFC Championships, and nine Super Bowls with the Patriots. Now the torch has been passed to Mayo.

Jerod Mayo plans to be his own man as head coach, which is understandable. He hopes to enjoy similar success as his predecessor though he will not attempt to be a carbon copy of Belichick. Mayo made this clear at his introductory press conference.

“I’m not trying to be Bill (Belichick),” Mayo explained. “Bill is his own man.”

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Mayo should stay true to himself. As he pointed out in a radio interview, staying true to who he is as a person has landed him an NFL head coaching job.

“I’m just going to be Jerod; I’m just going to be me. It’s worked for me this far.”

All of this is perfectly reasonable. However, there is an aspect of Mayo’s persona where emulating the coach he played and coached under would be a great benefit. Sometimes it’s important to realize that talking less is in one’s best interests.

Rookie Mistake

Jerod Mayo made his first radio appearance on Boston sports radio soon after landing his head coaching gig. He covered many topics in the discussion but one quote stood out. The hosts asked Mayo if he received any assurances from Patriots CEO Robert Kraft that the team would be willing to spend money in the offseason. The head coach gave an enthusiastic response.

“We bringing in talent 1,000% Have a lot of cap space and cash. Ready to burn some cash!”

New England signed several of their own free agents but did not sign any big-money items from elsewhere. Jacoby Brissett has the largest cap hit of any free agent they signed from another team. Brissett is a quarterback with a cap hit below $8 million. To say that the free agency period did not live up to Mayo’s promises is an understatement.

The Patriots did an excellent job retaining their own talent. They brought back key free agents Mike Onwenu, Kyle Dugger, and others. Christian Barmore signed a lucrative extension. Had the expectations level been set differently, there would be cause for celebration from building around a solid core, while improving the roster’s depth via free agency and the draft.

Mayo chalked up the comment to a “rookie mistake” when no marquee talent from elsewhere came aboard.

Belichick Comments

Again, it’s fine that Jerod Mayo wants to be his own man, but invoking Bill Belichick’s name negatively will not win him many fans among the Foxboro faithful.

New England selected Drake Maye third overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. Jerod Mayo talked to NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe following the draft. Among the topics discussed was what Mayo thought Bill Belichick would have done with the pick.

“With Bill, we probably would have traded back to get more picks,” Mayo told Wolfe.

An answer such as, “You’d have to ask Bill Belichick that,” would have been appropriate. As evidenced by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Belichick in “The Dynasty” and the huge ovation the former coach received during Tom Brady’s Patriots Hall of Fame ceremony, there is still a lot of love for Bill Belichick in Patriots Nation. Attempting to distance himself from Belichick at every turn is not doing him any favors. It’s great that Mayo has a different personality and wants to be friendlier and more engaging with the media, but perceived shots at Belichick is not the best way to go about it.

“Our path for so long has been accumulating more picks because it was our process. And we still believe in that,” Mayo added. “But we also believe when you’re at a position at No. 3, you have to get it right and get a cornerstone player.”

Belichick never had the No. 3 overall selection during his tenure in New England. The highest pick that the Patriots owned was sixth overall, and Belichick used it to draft future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Richard Seymour in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Other Comments

Sports Illustrated Albert Breer wrote about how the Patriots planned to cut one of their four quarterbacks before training camp. Jerod Mayo stated that although New England had four quarterbacks at OTAs they would be “paring down the roster” as training camp began. This made no sense to me. I wrote about how this plan made no sense.

Following the team’s mandatory minicamp earlier this week, Mayo declared that he “absolutely” plans to begin training camp with all four Patriots quarterbacks still on the roster. What changed?

Also this past week, Mayo was asked about New England’s left tackle situation. While answering, he pointed out that there was no question about the other side of the line

“Obviously, we look at Big Mike (Onwenu) saying he has the right side locked down.”

But just days later Mayo had changed his tune. Onwenu was receiving practice reps at right guard and suddenly there seemed to be a new philosophy to picking the starting offensive line in New England.

“The best players will play,” Mayo said less than 48 hours later about his offensive line. “That’s how I think about it. It’s all competition and we’re going to try to put the best five out there.”

As with the free agency situation, the final result is not the issue. It is a matter of how much of what Mayo says should be believed. The New England Patriots did not burn money to bring in talent. Bill Belichick did not trade away the only high draft pick of his tenure in New England. Mike Onwenu is not “obviously” locking down the right tackle position. None of these are big deals, but why did the Patriots head coach need to say them?

Which brings us to a more important matter…

Open Competition in New England

Nothing is more important to the future of the franchise than the development of Drake Maye. It is hard to imagine the New England Patriots being able to turn things around anytime soon without their rookie becoming an excellent NFL QB. How the Patriots handle Maye is crucial. But also important is the expectations being set for him by the organization.

Mayo says there is a competition to be the starting quarterback for the Patriots this season. Is that true? Again, whether or not there is an actual competition is not the issue. If Mayo plans to start Brissett regardless of preseason, why announce there is a competition? If Maye outperforms the other quarterbacks and doesn’t land the starting job, fans will be unhappy and Mayo will further lose credibility before coaching a single NFL game.

I’m not suggesting there should or shouldn’t be a competition, only that stating one thing and then having it be untrue is not beneficial to anyone.

The head coach stated the wide receiver position is a “wide-open competition” too. That competition at wide receiver doesn’t have the same stakes as the handling of a franchise quarterback. But is what Mayo is saying accurate? There are 11 wide receivers on the 90-man Patriots roster. How many of them are truly competing for roster spots?

Mayo Should Emulate Belichick Somewhat

Nobody is asking Mayo to be a carbon copy of Belichick. The Patriots hired him because they wanted, and perhaps needed, something different after a quarter century. But just because Mayo wants to carve his path, doing things his way, doesn’t mean he should ignore all that was learned from Bill Belichick’s time in New England.

Bill Belichick learned quickly in New England to not bother saying more than he had to. What was the point? Despite his tremendous success, many media members were happy to see him and his gruff style exit Gillette Stadium. The new regime, from the Kraft family to Eliot Wolf to Jerod Mayo, wants a more pleasant mood around the facilities in the post-Belichick world. I’m all for that aspect of things, but feeling the need to expand excitedly on every question is not necessarily the best way to go about it.

Some media members seem to enjoy misery. They find joy in a team’s failures. I am not one of them. As somebody who watched every New England Patriots game at least three times in 2023, there is no question my job is more enjoyable when the product on the field is entertaining and competitive. Winning usually comes with that as well. So I hope, for my sake as much as his, Jerod Mayo has a long and successful tenure as head coach of the Patriots. But I think Mayo will be doing himself a favor, and prevent more “rookie mistakes” if he realizes Bill Belichick had the right idea in at least one regard. When dealing with the media, more is not always better.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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