Twice over the span of the last four months, the New England Patriots lost a defensive signal caller. First, it was linebackers coach and de facto coordinator Brian Flores, who held the role in 2018 and left the Patriots after the Super Bowl to take over as head coach for the Miami Dolphins. Then, it was his designated heir, Greg Schiano, who stepped down in late March to “spend more time on [his] faith and family.”
Without a veteran coach on the defensive staff to take over for Flores/Schiano, head coach Bill Belichick was seen as the logical choice to just call the defense himself in 2019. And while that might very well still be the case, the Patriots’ first mandatory minicamp practice on Tuesday saw another coach get involved with the process of relaying information from the sidelines to the field: inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
As spotted by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Mayo and Belichick alternated as the play-callers throughout the two-hour session. Belichick worked with the first-stringers during four competitive team periods, with his assistant then taking over as soon as the second- and third-string defenses entered the field. All in all, Mayo called the plays for one of the team periods and worked with a mix of starters and backups.
“He’s a hell of a coach,” New England’s primary on-field signal caller, Dont’a Hightower, told Howe after the session. “Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less. He’s got so much knowledge and so much wisdom that he brings — not just as a football player. He’s definitely done it. He’s seen it. He’s played it. The reputation that he has, he’s an All-Pro, so it’s great to have a linebacker coach who has been through so much and can relate to a lot.”
Mayo, of course, was a core member of the Patriots’ defense from his selection in the first round of the 2008 draft until injuries started to slow him down beginning in 2013. He retired in early in 2016, but only three years later returned to the club for which he appeared in a combined 111 regular season and playoff games: the 33-year-old took over as inside linebackers coach this offseason, following the departure of Flores and other assistants.
And even though the gig is his first ever as a coach, it seems as if Mayo is already enjoying Belichick’s trust — just like he did during his playing days. And while one minicamp practice in early June is not necessarily reflective of any future involvement in calling the shots on defense, it certainly is an encouraging development to see Mayo’s responsibilities grow beyond ‘only’ coaching New England’s linebackers.
“Mayo was a fantastic player as a Patriot. Him along with the other coaches, everybody has their hand in the pot, so we’re all piggybacking off each other and getting to learn everybody,” Ja’Whaun Bentley, one of the recipients of Mayo’s signals, told Howe. However, the second-year man was also quick to point out that “it really doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the headset; you’re just looking to get the play and get it executed.”
On Tuesday, Mayo was the voice in Bentley’s and fellow linebacker Elandon Roberts’ ears. Whether or not this is a sign of things to come remains to be seen — but it certainly is a noteworthy development in an offseason marked by turnover on the coaching staff.