Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots are wasting no time kick-starting the rebuild process in the post-Bill Belichick era.
About 24 hours after Adam Schefter broke the news that Belichick and the Patriots were parting ways, he also broke the news that replacing Belichick is a done deal, with Jerod Mayo taking over as head coach (something Schefter had, admittedly, already reported was the plan when the Belichick news broke).
So now that we're done speculating about who the head coach will be, we can start thinking about whether this move was a good one.
Jerod Mayo Hiring Grade: C+
I'll open this by saying how much I loved watching Jerod Mayo play. The early-2000's linebacking core with Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel was one of my favorite parts of the team as a kid, and watching another elite linebacker take up the mantle was awesome.
There are also tactical pieces to like about the hiring.
Pro: It's a Savvy Move Going Young
I also love the idea of hiring young head coaches. Time and time again, teams give third, fourth and fifth chances to old head coaches who maybe had some success many years ago (and sometimes who have never had any real success).
But once a guy has failed a couple of times, why not give a chance to a young coach who might surprise you? He might flop, of course, but that's a risk with anyone. Mayo's bringing more upside to the table than hiring one of those older coaches who we know doesn't have a high ceiling.
So that's why I'm not totally trashing this move.
But the Patriots' team composition and the strength of this year's available head coaching pool makes me a little concerned about Mayo.
Con: This is Not a Time to Fully Rebuild
The Patriots, to me, are not a true rebuilding team. There's an elite defense in place. The offensive line has some holes to fill, but it's generally a sound unit. With even capable quarterback play this is immediately at least a fringe Wild Card team. With great quarterback play, this team could be a real threat to win the AFC East.
So with that in mind, bringing in a more proven head coach becomes increasingly important. We don't need to complete a Hail Mary with the hiring to become a playoff team again, we just need a few 15-yard completions.
And this year brings an unusually strong head coaching pool. Mike Vrabel or Jim Harbaugh, for example, don't fall into that "failed old coach" bucket, but also have a higher floor than Mayo. Neither of those guys will sink the Patriots' chances of making the playoffs.
I'm not saying that Mayo will, but as a totally unproven head coach we can't ignore the chance that he could.
And knowing that the Mayo hiring was essentially decided before the potential competition for the position was known (Harbaugh and Vrabel's availability were no locks when Mayo had that "successor clause" written into his contract), it feels like Kraft never did his due diligence here.
Con: Offensive Development Will Make or Break The Patriots' Future
Of course when I mention above that the elite defense can carry this team, I need to credit Mayo, and need to acknowledge how the defense may not be as elite with Belichick gone. But the fact remains that the Patriots have a lot of young talent on that side of the ball, and it's clearly better developed than the offense.
I also need to acknowledge that we don't know what Mayo can offer to an offense. Just because he hasn't coached offense doesn't mean he has no understanding of it. But it's also not a stretch to assume that he'll have to download most of his offensive responsibilities to the offensive coordinator. This can work if we get a great one, but it also just adds one more potential failure point to the whole equation.
In all likelihood the Pats will be developing a rookie quarterback with a bunch of new weapons in the offense around him. Time and time again we've seen young QBs bust because the coaching staff doesn't put them in the right position to succeed, and that could be a major issue here.
So I land on a C+ overall. I'm not going to complain about the hiring or tell you it's a dud right off the bat. So much of what's to come is unknown, and there's a real chance Mayo ends up being an A+ hiring in hindsight. But there's also a chance he's a D-.
And grading this before we have the benefit of hindsight, it's that uncertainty that sits at the core of why the Mayo hiring isn't an overly exciting one.
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