When Jerod Mayo inked a contract extension to keep him in New England for the "foreseeable future" in January, the former Patriots linebacker appeared to have established himself as the heir apparent in Foxborough.
Now, one NFL insider is suggesting that Mayo's succession of Belichick might not be such a foregone conclusion.
Let's be clear, this is through no fault of Mayo. The former Patriots linebacker has served as the team's de facto play caller for a defensive unit that ranks eighth-best in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game. You have to go pretty far down the list of Patriots failures this season before you arrive at anything related to that side of the ball.
Rather, Dan Graziano reports that Mayo's status as heir apparent has become murkier because of New England's future on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots are averaging fewer than two touchdowns per game (13 PPG). Their offense hasn't just been ineffective, it's been 32nd out of 32, dead last in the NFL bad.
"Mayo would have to sell Kraft on who will be in charge of the offense, the quarterback's development and personnel. That could all happen and work out in Mayo's favor, but it doesn't sound like it's a 100% sure thing."- Dan Graziano
The comment about Mayo's need to sell Kraft on who will be in "charge of the offense" is also intriguing, because the widespread belief was that Kraft essentially gave Belichick an ultimatum to bring offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien back to Foxborough this past offseason. Could that also suggest that Bill O'Brien's job is in jeopardy too?
O'Brien's name has been tossed out there as a potential candidate for the head coaching job, although he would be a longshot and likely viewed as a disappointing hire.
Graziano's reporting also provides valuable insight into the succession plan that Kraft envisioned when Mayo put pen to paper on his contract extension in January, a plan that has been thrown out the window (hopefully with more accuracy than a Mac Jones pass) amidst this unmitigated disaster of a season.
"Sources close to the Patriots believe Kraft's plan entering this season was for Belichick to coach two more seasons and have Mayo take over in 2025. Belichick entered the season needing 18 wins to catch Shula for most career victories (regular season and postseason combined) among NFL coaches, and the thought was he could get that done in two seasons."- Dan Graziano
Kraft's timeline has been hastily accelerated with the calamity in Foxborough this season. Barring a 28-3 comeback miracle, Belichick won't make it to 2025 in New England, and he has only gained three games on Shula. If he breaks Shula's record, it is almost certain he will do so on a different sideline.
Mayo is still the favorite to be the Patriots' next head coach, according to Graziano: "Multiple sources in and around the building say Mayo taking over next year is the most likely outcome, though others are no longer certain that's the way Kraft will go."
But if Robert Kraft and the New England do ultimately go in a different direction than the defensive-minded Mayo, it's just one more thing you can blame on this 2023 putrid Patriots offense.
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