Jerod Mayo, center, had a clause in his contract that allowed the Patriots to name him their new head coach after letting go of Bill Belichick, right, without going through the standard interviewing process. Doug Murray/Associated Press

A year before the Patriots named Jerod Mayo their next head coach, they penned his future into existence.

Ownership secretly signed off on a clause in Mayo’s last contract, a clause now famous for allowing the Patriots to skip a traditional head-coaching search whenever they parted with Bill Belichick. This week, that clause opened the door for Mayo less than 24 hours after Robert and Jonathan Kraft shut it on Belichick, and Mayo walked in because that is what the Krafts wanted.

Not just this week, but for an entire year.

Remember, the Krafts released an unprecedented statement announcing they had opened contract negotiations with Mayo in January 2023; a statement that chafed Belichick, according to reports, and left him feeling undermined. At the time, Mayo had completed just his fourth season in coaching, yet somehow showed enough to convince the Krafts he was a worthy successor to the greatest coach of all time.

Why did the Krafts make such a leap of faith? We’ll find out Wednesday during Mayo’s introductory press conference. Until we can parse their answers, it’s time to assess whether that leap was worth risking a fall into deeper NFL obscurity.

From this perch, the answer is … yes.


Mayo is a worthy gamble for the Patriots. And yes, he is a gamble; not only by virtue of being a first-time head coach, but by the fact the Krafts did not bother to stack his chances of success against the chances of any other candidates. Not even Mike Vrabel, who made three playoff runs in a six-year span when his best quarterback was Ryan Tannehill, and won a higher percentage of games as an underdog than every other head coach in the NFL except two.

Jerod Mayo will be introduced as the Patriots’ 15th head coach on Wednesday after he was named Bill Belichick successor on Thursday. Stew Milne/Associated Press

Was Mayo the best candidate available? We’ll never know. Mayo was an all-in shove at the blackjack table after the Krafts had peeked at one card, hit once and decided they had seen enough.

What we do know is Mayo feels like an ace. Since he joined the coaching staff in 2019, the Patriots’ defense has ranked No. 1 in the league by expected points added. He fits the profile of a coach who can modernize the organization: a man who connects with today’s generation of players, injects life into a room and commands it, is well-regarded for his Xs and Os, and is known as a sharp, independent thinker.

Translation: not a bad Belichick impersonator, a la Eric Mangini or Joe Judge.

Mayo is secure in his own skin and sensibilities. He proved this two weeks ago during a video conference with reporters when he expressed a mix of vulnerability and reflection while rebuking a report citing anonymous sources that claimed he’d been “rubbing people the wrong way” inside the facility. For whatever that type of claim is worth.

“It was more hurtful than anything. I found it to be, well – the timing is a little bit weird, in my opinion,” Mayo said of the report. “And if that was the case, I feel like this would have been leaked sometime earlier. … Some people appreciate that transparency and some don’t. But at the end of the day, if we can’t rub people the wrong way, how do you expect to be the best that you can be?”


He continued: “And I would say, any time there’s change or anything like that, it’s gonna be painful. If someone’s gonna rub you the wrong way, at the end of the day, you have to look through all the words and really get to the substance, or get to the meat and potatoes, of what that person’s trying to say.

“So, it actually helped me. It kind of triggered a period of self-reflection.”

How often would Belichick speak like that? Never. Never, ever. Never, ever, ever.

Now, in the spirit of full transparency, I did hear from two sources that Mayo acted “a little differently” this season; basically ever since he inked his contract that included the succession clause. Both sources stopped short of saying Mayo had been abrasive or unpleasant. Just different. And that is a critical distinction.

Because let’s be honest, if you had been empowered by the most powerful person at your company, told you were worthy of replacing the CEO, someone widely recognized as the greatest ever, how would you feel? How would you act?

Naturally, Mayo – who for three straight years has said publicly he believes he’s ready to become a head coach – has been itching to take over. What happened is that became obvious to those behind closed doors. But now, who cares?


Mayo’s time has come. It’s his show. His team.

What you will witness Wednesday in his opening act, and over the coming months, is how Mayo’s personality carries a type of gravity to it; one that pulls people closer to him in a way Belichick’s used to repel. That’s who he is.

That trait alone does not make Mayo fit to be a head coach, but it will mark the first and most obvious sign of change in New England. It’s necessary, vital change for an organization that is overdue for an update, a makeover, a rejuvenation.

With that rejuvenation will come pain. Pain for Mayo, players and the front office, as they learn and grow together. Mayo’s inexperience is the chief reason for fans to feel uneasy now, and he might ultimately fail.

But, take a breath. The die is cast. The Krafts have bet on their instincts yet again.

Mayo is their man; a coach who will build upon Belichick’s foundation, while remaking the program in his own image and eventually prove whether he was the right choice or an unnecessary risk one year in the making.

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