The New England Patriots’ coaching staff suffered some significant losses after the Super Bowl, especially on the defensive side: signal caller and linebackers coach Brian Flores left to join the Miami Dolphins, taking cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer with him. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly also jumped ship to take over a similar role with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the meantime, Greg Schiano came and went as the unit’s new coordinator.
As part of this transformation, the Patriots looked outside the organization for reinforcements — and they found some in an old friend: Jerod Mayo, who was a key member of the team’s defense from 2008 until his sudden retirement in early 2016. Mayo, whose brother Deron is working for the Patriots as assistant strength and conditioning coach, will serve as New England’s inside linebackers coach moving forward.
While the news of Mayo’s addition to the staff came as a surprise in late March, the 33-year-old always knew he would return to football eventually. “I always had the itch to get back into it, get back around the guys,” Mayo said during a media availability session ahead of the Patriots’ rookie minicamp. “It’s been going well [but] I wouldn’t say it’s something I always thought about: I always thought about playing football as a child, and now I have a whistle.”
In a sense, Mayo is a rookie again himself considering that he did not take the usual way up the coaching ladder and start as a low-level assistant before getting promoted. Instead, he got a prominent role right away — as was the case after the team drafted him in the first round eleven years ago. And his vast experience of playing in the Patriots’ defense and calling the shots as the on-field communicator certainly helped him get his new gig.
It is also something that should help him get comfortable in this role, despite some differences. “The lingo is different, at the same time the scheme is still pretty much the same,” Mayo said before acknowledging that the transition is still a big one. “It’s a huge jump. Middle linebacker — you have to know where everyone is. Now it’s like on the administrative side, also on the offensive side, what they’re doing. It’s a huge jump.”
“It’s difficult but at the same time it’s an exciting challenge,” continued Mayo, who also pointed out that he is not the only one who needs to learn something new: the players and fellow coaches also need to be able to pick up the concepts and schemes the team keeps working on on a regular basis. “This is a game plan defense, they change each and every week, so everyone’s in the same boat as far as learning the defense.”
For Mayo, however, this process of learning should not pose too big of a challenge: he did play 111 games for the Patriots, after all, and maybe even more importantly brings the right mindset to the table. “I love football, love studying football, love being around the conversations. [...] I’m always motivated. I feel good where I am. My family, they were very supportive of the decision to come back.”
The role Mayo’s family played in his coming back to the game in a rather active role — he pointed out that he did not expect the hours to be this long — cannot be understated. “That was the main thing: my kids, they’re good with it. My wife’s good with it. That was pretty much it for me,” said Mayo, also mentioning another selling point. “Anytime you get an opportunity to learn from the greatest head coach of all time, you’ve got to kind of jump on that opportunity.”
Jump on it he did — and now, Mayo will play a role in shaping the Patriots’ fortunes once again.