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'Belichick 2.0': Former Teammates are Talking About Jerod Mayo Becoming the Next Patriots Head Coach

Paul Connors. Shutterstock Images.

In my travels, as I walk among both kings and common folk alike, I'm often asked about Bill Belichick's future. Both from Patriots fans who do not wish to imagine living in a world where he is not the GM and head coach of the Patriots, and people who hate his team and have been living the past quarter century waiting for that day to finally arrive. 

And my answer is always the same. I explain that eventually the eight billion year old carbon that comprises Belichick's corporeal form will out serve its useful purpose, so he'll evolve into a form of pure energy, inhabit a younger body, and return to the sidelines without missing a beat. Or, he'll keep it simple and just bend spacetime, then be back as his own younger self. Either way, he defeats the aging process and this run keeps going. That's how I choose to deal with mortality, and it serves me well. You can pick whatever method suits you.

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Anyhoo, for whatever reason, there are those among us who want to speculate on this topic and not take refuge in a fantasy world of their own making. Belichick is now 19 wins from breaking Don Shula's all time record. Which means next season, he could theoretically tie Shula in the AFC championship game after going 17-0 and pass him in the Super Bowl. Though allowing for a slight margin of error, we're likely looking at 2024. And even though there's no indication this driven, focused, relatively young 70-year-old is standing in retirement's On Deck circle, people are asking what the succession plan is. 

Fine. We can play that game. If for no reason other than an intellectual exercise. And the consensus among Belichick's former players is that the Heir to the Throne is already on staff:

Source - A franchise so often cloaked in secrecy offered a glimpse of transparency after a disappointing 8-9 season. …

The New England Patriots and Head Coach Bill Belichick have begun contract extension discussions with Jerod Mayo that would keep him with the team long-term.

He had been asked by the Carolina Panthers to interview for their vacant head-coaching job. Now he was staying in New England and turning down a shot at fulfilling his self-proclaimed dream of becoming a head coach.

“When he turned those guys down, I understood without even talking to him what went on,” said Kevin Faulk, a friend and former teammate.

What went on, people close to Mayo believe, was a profession of support from Patriots ownership, perhaps an implicit indication of what could lie ahead for him — and for the franchise. 

The Kraft family … thinks highly of Mayo. Belichick is fond of him. Former teammates revere him. Coaching colleagues praise him.

“They definitely know they have something here and don’t want to let him go,” Rob Ninkovich, a former teammate, said of Patriots ownership.

What they have is a man capable of leading a locker room of professional athletes and discussing investments with hedge-fund executives. Someone who hangs out with Harvard business professors, ballet composers and “Jeopardy!” winners in his free time. Someone who only five years ago was working with the board of a major healthcare company and still theorizes about how blockchain technology could solve the healthcare backlog.

But he’s also so good at the X’s and O’s of football that he has become one of Belichick’s most trusted assistants. …

“Some people, I don’t know what it is, have that it factor. And he’s got it,” said Brandon Spikes, a former teammate. “He makes everyone around him better. He’s a perfect human being. If I had a son, I’d want him to be just like Jerod Mayo.”

When Mayo first arrived in New England in 2008, he entered a locker room filled with Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers … but when Mayo heard the stars complaining about wear and tear during the season, he felt the need to stick up for them.

“The guys are tired,” he’d say on occasional visits to Belichick’s office. “They’re beat-up from practice. Maybe we can take it easy today?”

Most of the time Belichick told him to go away. But about 30 percent of the time, Mayo estimated, he’d relent. …

“With his mind and the knowledge he has, it was just a given that he’d get into coaching because it’s teaching,” Ninkovich said. “As far as on-field quickness, he is the smartest guy that I had ever been around. His ability to decipher formations and bark out calls and get people lined up — he was by far the fastest and best that I’ve ever been around.”  …

Wednesdays during the NFL season are when players learn that week’s game plan. For the first few weeks of his rookie season, Spikes couldn’t figure out how Mayo knew the game plan by the time Spikes showed up at 7:30 a.m.

Finally, he asked.

“Oh,” Mayo responded, “I sit in on the coaching staff’s 6 a.m. meeting.”

Spikes was floored. Players don’t sit in on meetings with coaches.

“I’m not lying,” Spikes said. “He was in the staff meetings. For real.”

We've already established how I feel about the concept of a Belichick retirement. But let's say, for the sake of argument, he did get called away to head up the Milky Way's defenses in an intergalactic war or something, it's hard to make a better case for his successor than this. In fact, it makes Mayo sound less like a guy Belichick drafted and developed (into a Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowler, and team captain in just his second season) than one of his sons. 

I can't give the details without betraying a confidence, but I can confirm from someone who has witnessed it first hand, the respect between these two coaches is mutual, and it runs deep. And you can see why from these anecdotes. I mean, a player showing up earlier than his teammates to sit in on a coaches' meeting to get a jump on the game plan that would be presented to him anyway is either the world's most sycophant, or someone who is completely dedicated to his career. And Mayo is definitely the latter. During his peak, I had this conversation with a Patriots reporter where I said he'd be a household name if he just invented a sack dance, or came up with a ridiculous pregame hype routine like Ray Lewis. And this guy told me Mayo just has zero interest in self-promotion of any kind. And if he was into that self-aggrandizing "branding" bullshit, he'd have endorsement deals all over the place. But he's a serious guy who just prefers to focus on his work. Here's your proof.

I have no doubt that being knowledgeable about business, ballet, "Jeopardy!" healthcare and blockchain will make one a better tackle football coach. Frankly, it'll make you a better anything in life. That's why I'm all for giving incentives for government workers to get college degrees. Having a well-rounded, curious brain is a pure good. As proven by the fact the current head coach is a student of military history who has counted among his friends the late Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam and Jon Bon Jovi. A man of letters and a man in leather. So it makes perfect sense that a kindred spirit like Mayo would be the one to someday accept the crown and scepter, and take his place on the throne of this kingdom. 

Not today. Not next year. Hopefully several more Super Bowls from now. But when (if) that day ever does come, I cannot imagine a better choice than Jerod Mayo.

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