Jerod Mayo won his introductory press conference. Robert Kraft told the media that it was instinct that led him to choose Mayo as the new head coach of the New England Patriots. In his first public moment in this new role, Mayo’s message was one of both collaboration and boundaries. Once the staff and front office are finalized, those people will be trusted to do their jobs. However, Mayo refused on multiple occasions to elaborate on what his definition of success will be in the short term, or his evaluation of the personnel currently in place.
For all of the good that came from his press conference, Mayo’s best moment was when he made it clear that he will not be doing a Bill Belichick impersonation.
“I’m not trying to be Bill,” Mayo told the media on Wednesday. “I’m not trying to be Bill. I think that Bill is his own man. If you can’t tell by now I’m a little bit different.”
The worst way for Mayo to approach his job as the first new head coach of the Patriots in 24 years would be to lead the same way as Belichick. That whole Gloomy Gus act only worked because the Pats were one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. Also, Belichick did not always speak to the media at a decibel level that was a tick above the threshold of hearing while wearing a dingy hoodie. There was a time, before the championships, when he dressed and spoke like all of the other head coaches in the NFL. He had to earn the latitude to deliver dry press conferences and sloppy dress.
Mayo was complementary towards Belichick. He reflected fondly on what he has learned from arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history, both as a player and assistant. But Mayo’s way will be the new Patriot way.
If he wants this job for anywhere near as long as Belichick held it, the team can’t continue to feel like it is stranded in the woods of New England. The Patriots need a new vibe and some fresh energy. Dreary and cold should not be the first two adjectives that come to mind when I think of the team. Those adjectives describe not just the climate, but also the way that the Pats come across to the rest of the country.
It’s new year, and a new time in Foxborough. The Pats have decided to turn to an expert in its anti-fun culture. A person who admitted during his first press conference that he worked in the private sector for a few years after his playing career was over, in part to get a break from Belichick.
Head coaches can be successful in pleasant environments. Having fun and showing emotion are not impediments to winning. Pete Carroll did not win as much as Belichick, but he is one of only three coaches to win titles at the collegiate and NFL level.
The discipline and attention to detail that Mayo saw on a daily basis from Belichick will likely be a part of his coaching philosophy. Those are characteristics champions have, and the Patriots won six of those during Belichick’s tenure.
Blending that alongside some youth and energy is what Mayo has been hired to do. He is not Belichick, and the first step towards being the person who follows him is to admit that. Mayo has done so and it is now time for him to put that into practice.