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‘Not trying to be Bill’: Mayo paints new picture of Patriots organization as he takes over as HC

FOXBORO, Mass — During the the first introductory press conference for a head coach since Gillette Stadium was built, there were hearty laughs, smiles and even a light-hearted joke when owner Robert Kraft struggled to pronounce the name of one of Jerod Mayo’s sons.

“It’s one of those Black names. I’ll help you with that,” Mayo delivered to a chorus of chuckles.

If it wasn’t clear enough that Bill Belichick was no longer the frontman of the New England Patriots, new head coach Jerod Mayo made sure there wasn’t any room for confusion.

“I’m not trying to be Bill. Bill is his own man. If you can’t tell by now I’m a bit different even up here,” Mayo said with a wry smile.

Mayo, a linebacker-turned-linebackers-coach-turned head coach, was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. The former Tennesse Volunteer quickly earned a reputation as a bright, hard-working rookie, who earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors as the team’s leading tackler.

Kraft also remembered the former first-rounder as a wanna-be comedian.

“I remember him immediately coming up to me and saying ‘Kraft and Mayo go together pretty well,’ Kraft said at Wednesday’s press conference.

Mayo’s reputation soon evolved into being one of the locker room’s most vocal leaders as Super Bowl champions like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour exited New England. Mayo was voted as a team captain in just his second year, an honor that continued until his retirement as a player in 2015.

After a four-year stint in the business world, Mayo again returned to the Patriots sideline as an assistant coach. Mayo’s responsibilities as a coach grew almost as quickly as they did as a player as more of the Patriot’s defense fell under his eyes.

However, Mayo, nor any other assistant coach was named defensive coordinator as Matt Patricia was the last to hold that title during the 2017 season.

While Mayo acknowledged that the process of filling out his staff is an ongoing operation, he planned to hand out titles to new coaches he hopes are “developers.”

“I think with this generation you have to show them that you care about them before you get into competency as far as X’s and O’s are concerned. And that’s the one thing will all my coaches. They should know the players. They should know their room better than I do,” said Mayo. “I think titles are important. No knock to coach Belichick who has been a huge mentor to me over the years, as a player and a colleague... What’s your job? What value do you bring to the organization? And I think that’s the most important thing. In business and in sports people get caught up in titles but there’s the other side where if you want to get promoted, people have to know exactly what it is you do.”

A week after Kraft stated the importance of checks and balances in the wake of Belichick’s exit as head coach and de facto GM, Mayo expressed a desire for a collaborative effort as New England tries to return to postseason play.

“I don’t like echo chambers,” Mayo plainly stated. “I want people around me that are going to question my ideas or the way that we have done things in the past because realistically this game is a lot different than it was when I was drafted in 2008.”

Mayo is inheriting an offense that finished at the bottom of the league last year and felt like a hindrance to a powerful, thumping defense more often than it like a boon. Before a playbook is schemed up or new personnel is put in place, Mayo said he hoped to see change take pace far away from the hash marks - the weight room.

“The energy. The passion. The leaders on the offensive side of the ball. I think you have to get that stuff in place,” said Mayo. “I think the weight room is one of the most important areas in the building to really evaluate what you have on your team. And one thing we don’t want to do is have people who are complainers or finger-pointing or things like that.”

While the head honcho of the sideline was swapped out, it remains to be seen whether the Patriots will have an unfamiliar face delivering the draft card to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on draft night.

Kraft said the Patriots will interview external GM candidates but wants to thoroughly vet the holdovers from the Belichick era first.

“We have a lot of people internally who have had a chance to train and learn under the greatest head coach of all time, a man whose football intellect is very special, so in the short term, we’re looking for collaboration,” Kraft detailed.

Kraft explained that he prefers to hire internally when he can for all his business ventures, not just the Patriots. The Brookline native explained to the crowd of reporters that he has only made three head coaching hires since purchasing the team and that one of his few regrets was not hiring Bill Belichick, an assistant on the 1996 AFC Champion team, before 2000.

It was a mistake he didn’t plan on repeating and why he chose to put language in Mayo’s contract clearing the way for his assistant to become head coach.

“I’ve learned to trust my instincts throughout my career and I trust that Jerod is the right person to lead the Patriots back to championship-level contention and long-term success,” explained Kraft.

As Mayo departed the press conference, media duties fulfilled and plenty of photos taken, current Patriots Jonathan Jones and Ja’Whaun Bentley called out to their new head coach, complimenting him on his choice of suit for the auspicious day.

Mayo broke stride and diverted to the Belichick-era holdovers, embracing and sharing jokes before returning to the caravan of Patriots staffers, including his new direct boss. Mayo then marched out the set of double doors at the GP Atrium, off to some unknown area of Gillette. The introductions taken care of and the next item on the new head coach’s itinerary floated to the top.

Jones, Bentley and three-time Super Bowl champion Devin McCourty stayed behind, mingling, laughing and making small talk with faces they might not see until the spring, when it’s Mayo swinging a whistle and drilling the tenants of the new Patriots’ vision.

“We have a good foundation,” Mayo said in the press conference. “My thing here over the next few weeks is to rebuild some relationships, knock down silos and collaborate.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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