Bill Belichick has not given any indications about his retirement plans, but turning 71 next month the end of his tenure as New England Patriots head coach is closer than the beginning. The question is not just when he will step away, but also who will succeed him.
For years, Josh McDaniels was seen as the clubhouse leader. With him now in Las Vegas, however, it appears Jerod Mayo might be the heir apparent.
At the very least, Mayo is a “strong candidate” to succeed Belichick one day. And don’t take that from us, take it from Patriots owner Robert Kraft himself.
“Well, he’s definitely a strong candidate to be the heir apparent,” Kraft told NFL Network at the league ownership meeting in Phoenix on Monday. “But we have some other good people in our system. So right now, we have a good head coach, and we’re doing everything we can to support him, and make sure we do everything we can to win.”
Kraft touched on a variety of topics on Monday — from his trust in Belichick to his optimism about quarterback Mac Jones. The question of Mayo was a popular one, though, given that the team just recently signed him to a new contract extension.
Whether that is in itself a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but the Patriots owner does see head coach qualities in his team’s current linebackers coach.
“There’s no ceiling on his ability to be a head coach,” Kraft said. “He’ll be a head coach, I’m sure of that. I hope he’s with us. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Mayo originally joined the organization as a first-round draft pick in 2008. Over the next eight seasons, he developed into a cornerstone of the Patriots defense and appeared in a combined 111 regular season and playoff games. Along the way, he earned one Super Bowl ring and two Pro Bowl nominations.
A string of injuries forced him to retire in 2016, but Mayo returned just three years later to take over as New England’s inside linebackers coach. He moved to linebackers coach in 2020, and has led the team’s defense alongside fellow assistant coach Steve Belichick ever since.
“Jerod is an individual who I think there is no ceiling for his ability to grow and how competent he is,” said Kraft. “We had the privilege of having him as a player — I saw how intense he was, and the leadership skills he had on the field. Then I saw him leave us and go into private industry and learn the Xs and Os of business, and then come back and be a coach and do that with us.
“Good coaches get hired away, so I was happy we were able to sit with him and try to keep him here long-term. I’m going to do everything I can to try to make that happen.”