Even though he had only two years of coaching experience under his belt at the time, the Philadelphia Eagles brought Jerod Mayo in for a head coaching interview in January. Mayo did not get the job and eventually returned to serve as inside linebackers coach for the New England Patriots, but the mere fact that he was invited speaks for itself.
The 35-year-old is certainly an ascending coach, something that NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero also recently pointed out by including him on a list of “young NFL coaches to watch.” Asked about the distinction on Monday, Mayo was quite open about his wish to keep ascending the coaching ladder.
“It’s definitely an honor. I definitely aspire to be a head coach in this league,” he said. “At the same time, I would say I’m really focused on this season. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Mayo has played a big role in helping the Patriots defense become one of the best units in football. Eleven weeks into the season, the group now ranks first in the NFL in points allowed per game (14.8), has already scored three touchdowns, and is near the top of the league in almost every major statistical category.
It is therefore no surprise that Mayo — the unit’s de facto leader alongside outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick — has earned plenty of respect across the NFL. His relative lack of coaching experience does certainly not appear to be a turn-off.
Mayo, after all, also saw his fair share of football during his playing days.
Originally arriving in the league as the 10th overall selection in the 2008 draft, he quickly made a name for himself as a hard-hitting middle linebacker. Earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, the Tennessee product became a cornerstone of New England’s defense and went on to appear in a combined 111 games before injuries caught up with him and forced him into an early retirement in 2016.
Three years later, Mayo returned to the Patriots organization as an assistant coach. Where his journey will still take him remains to be seen, but him become a head coach sooner rather than later would not be a surprise.
The same also is true for tight ends coach Nick Caley — another inclusion on the aforementioned list, albeit in the “others to watch in coming years” category.
Like Mayo, however, Caley’s focus also does not yet lie on any future job opportunities. The 38-year-old, who is in his fifth year working with New England’s tight ends, said so himself on Monday.
“Honestly, I try not to get caught up in a lot of those things,” Caley said. “Obviously, I’ve got aspirations professionally to grow, like a lot of guys. But to be honest with you, I’ve always stuck to the recipe of just trying to focus on the job that I have, be where my feet are. That’s worked for me. I try to be the best tight ends coach, honestly, that I can here, and that’s what my focus has been on.
“I’ve never been one to really try to get ahead of myself there. Obviously, I’ve got to do a better job here each week, so I don’t put a whole lot of stock into things like that. Honestly, I don’t have much time to read stuff like that during the season. I’ve just been focused on trying to be the best version of myself, obviously, that I can be here to help this team.”
Like Mayo’s position group, Caley’s also has been productive this season. Led by Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, Patriots tight ends have caught 55 passes for 588 yards and eight touchdowns this year.