New coach Jerod Mayo, left, and owner Robert Kraft face entirely new expectations for the franchise that has enjoyed so much success. The Patriots are no longer Super Bowl contenders, they just have to prove they can be respectable. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Expectations can create pressure for coaches and their respective teams. At the same time, they can also free teams from a cumbersome weight on their collective backs.

It just depends on the view.

Consider the Patriots.

Jerod Mayo is replacing a legendary coach. He’s following Bill Belichick, who while falling off in recent years, still helped produce six Super Bowl wins.

Basically, Mayo is stepping into quicksand his first year as a head coach. He and lead personnel man Eliot Wolf are trying to resurrect a four-win team, and accomplish the feat sooner, rather than later. They’re starting from scratch, trying to pump some life into one of the least talented rosters in the NFL.

There’s a new offensive coordinator, and a whole new cast of coaches on that side of the ball. And they’ve been tasked with reviving an offense that not only lacks elite playmakers, but has a question mark at its most important position – quarterback.


Adding to the degree of difficulty, all three of the starting tight ends are headed to free agency, along with their two starting tackles.

Given that scenario, some might say there’s a ton of pressure on Mayo & Co. to flip the switch, and make the Patriots a respectable team once again, especially with Robert Kraft cutting Belichick loose after 24 seasons at the helm.


How can there be any pressure, if the expectation for success is so low?

ESPN host Mike Greenberg recently came up with a list of NFL teams he deemed to be under the most pressure to win the offseason.

The Patriots didn’t crack the top five.


In order, Greenberg had Chicago, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Buffalo.

Again, it depends on perspective.

The latter two teams have produced winning records, division titles and multiple playoff appearances the past five years or more. The Cowboys have gone 12-5 in each of the last three seasons. Their problem has been early playoff extinction.

As for the Bills, they’ve won the AFC East five straight years. Their issues are similar to the Cowboys. They can’t get out of their own way when the postseason rolls around.

The Steelers? The last time they had a losing season was in 2003. Guess the pressure comes from the natives being restless for another title.

The Jets, meanwhile, can’t shake the loser label. They just keep fumbling year after year. With Aaron Rodgers returning after missing nearly all of last season with a blown Achilles, there’s clearly pressure on the organization to put the former Packers star in a position to succeed and change their fortune.


As for the Bears, the last time they had a winning record was 2018. With two draft picks in the top 10, including the first overall, they can change their fate pretty quickly.

Or they can blow it, and stay mired in mediocrity.

Still, that list doesn’t fly in New England. Maybe the expectations aren’t great for the Patriots on the outside. On the inside, it’s a different story.

With a ton of cap space, a No. 3 pick, and a new regime shopping for the groceries, the local fandom is expecting – almost demanding – for the Patriots to produce, or show some signs of life after four largely lackluster seasons.

Under Belichick in recent years, the team has fallen on hard times. The perennial contenders have sunk into the dreaded land of irrelevance.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah provided a glimpse of what that means during his conference call with the media Thursday.


“Just being in that stadium last year, it was kind of – I didn’t recognize it,” he said. “Obviously the team wasn’t good, but there has been so much energy and juice in that building every other time I’ve been in there, and it was just so flat, and it wasn’t just a bad team. It was a boring team. There’s just no juice, no excitement whatsoever.”

Now, it’s up to Mayo, Wolf and whoever else to get the Patriots up off the mat.

This isn’t championship or bust type of pressure. It’s more like respectability or bust. It’s getting off on the right foot of a rebuild and rekindling hope.

It’s about not blowing it by drafting the wrong quarterback. Or, having the wrong plan when it comes to reviving their quarterback room.

By wrong plan, the Patriots shouldn’t draft a quarterback at No. 3, just to take the quarterback. They shouldn’t force it with such an important pick.

Mayo, Wolf and whoever else, have to believe they have the guy of their dreams in their sights. Whether they make a move up the board for Caleb Williams, or believe either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels are the answer, their conviction has to be strong.


Otherwise, take Marvin Harrison, or trade down the board to gather more assets, plug a few holes and take a quarterback later.

Owner Robert Kraft put it in perspective. He called it the “most anticipated NFL draft of our tenure.”

How they handle free agency will be another eye-opener.

If they sign Baker Mayfield, or trade for Justin Fields, that’s a big tell what they think of the quarterbacks in the draft.

“Given what’s transpired, this offseason is very important for the Patriots,” ESPN analyst and former Patriot Damien Woody said. “I think Jerod understands the challenges he’s facing.

“It might be tough sledding given all the change, but they really have to hit the ground running. They need explosive athletes. They don’t have enough explosive athletes,” Woody went on. “They need game changers on their team. But as far as expectations, there really aren’t any because they’re so devoid of talent. If ownership is willing to spend the money, I think they can get this thing turned around.”


They have to be willing, and spend wisely.

With the NFL Combine this week, free agency to follow in a few weeks, and the NFL Draft on deck after that, the offseason fireworks are about to start.

So the pressure is on. It’s on the Patriots to plant the seeds and establish the foundation to change the recent narrative. With Belichick now in the rearview mirror, it’s on Mayo & Co. to make the team more watchable in 2024.

It’s respectability, or bust.

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