The New England Patriots sideline and coaching box upstairs will look very different in 2023, according to the team’s former quarterback, current analyst, and team insider, Scott Zolak. In a recent episode of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand Show, the former gave a rundown of what he’s heard regarding the direction of the team’s coaching staff under Bill Belichick heading into next season.
We learned the team would hire an offensive coordinator to replace Matt Patricia and that linebackers coach Jerod Mayo would be retained and likely given a promotion to keep him from jumping to another team as a defensive coordinator or head coach.
Zolak expounded on the role Mayo would likely assume, according to what he had heard. Bertrand asked Zolak specifically what Mayo’s title would be.
Patriots Jerod Mayo is Set to Be Named Assistant Head Coach: Report
“To what I said Wednesday, assistant head coach,” Zolak replied. “I think he’ll be named assistant head coach. Dante Scarnecchia was assistant head coach, I think, up until 2013. When Dante first stepped away from the game, then he didn’t get the title again. But for a long stretch there, I think for over ten years, he was assistant head coach. So Bill’s given the title before.”
Bertrand asked Zolak what an assistant head coach’s responsibilities would be.
“You probably have to meet with Bill,” Zolak replied. “You have to talk about all three different units, offense, defense, special team, just in the case of an emergency because then you become the guy. Here’s the way I like to see things run. Give you a little peek into what we’re doing here, maybe bring you into some personnel meetings, I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s just the title. I think you actually got to put more in charge, you know, as far as you got to see the way you’re going to run all three groups here just in case something would happen to me. You’re the next guy. You’re my hand-picked next guy in charge. That’s the way this thing’s going to go.”
According to Zolak, the Patriots may be setting Mayo up as the man who ultimately takes the reins from Belichick when the latter calls it a career.
Per the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian, Mayo declined an interview for the Carolina Panthers head coaching job. If a deal between the Patriots and Mayo is reached, it’s logical to conclude Mayo would be off the board as a potential candidate for head coach and defensive coordinator jobs.
Would Mayo commit to the Patriots if he didn’t have some inkling that he was in line to succeed Belichick? Without an official announcement or a declaration of intentions from Mayo, it cannot be said with all certainty. However, Zolak implied all signs are pointing to Mayo progressing in that direction.
Patriots Said to Be Eyeing Jerod Mayo as Bill Belichick’s Successor
“So I just think that you know, Mayo has been around the team; they all know him,” Zolak added. “Whatever you think about him as a leader of men, yeah we all know that stuff. He’s got a great football mind. And I think that’s a guy that, you know, you’ve helped work in the business world when he retired. That the head coach here talked him into coming in and being a coach, he got bit by it. He likes it. He wants to be a head coach. I think this is keeping him around to be the next guy when Bill is done. I think that’s where this is headed.”
Has Mayo been given an official offer or promise to succeed Belichick as the next head coach of the Patriots? The answer is no, according to Zolak, but he offered this advice on the subject.
“Read the room,” Zolak said. “Not saying I know anything or anything, but I just think it’s a natural progression. And I think you’ve obviously made him enough of an offer with a wink without putting on paper, you’re the next guy. But I think ownership has made it quite clear how they view him. You know, and how highly they hold him with regard. That’s a big statement coming from them because they’ve been around it for a long time. There’s not a lot of up and downs here. I mean, it’s been a steady Eddie ship.”
What’s Next For the Patriots and Matt Patricia?
According to Zolak, Patricia will be “moving upstairs,” referring to the advisory role he held with the team back in 2021. Zolak said there is a chance Patricia helps out with the offensive line, but the days of him calling plays appear to be over.
According to NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran, former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Alabama OC Bill O’Brien is the “primary target” for the position.
Curran says, “there is unanimity on all sides that O’Brien’s the best person for the job and — while there are other candidates with merit — the familiarity ownership and Mac Jones have with O’Brien and O’Brien’s willingness to return mean it would be an upset if he doesn’t get the job.”
In an ideal and seemingly practical world for the Patriots, Belichick would remain as head coach, Mayo would take over as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, O’Brien would take on offensive coordinator duties, and according to Zolak, Joe Judge would return to his old post as the special teams coordinator.
If things fall into place, the Patriots could go from having a highly questionable coaching staff in 2022 to having a bit of an all-star squad of football minds. Perhaps most importantly, each coach would be set in positions highlighting their specific expertise.
After missing the postseason for the second time in three years, the upcoming offseason will be key for Jones and the entire Patriots roster. It appears the top concern will be putting the right coaches in place before they start to improve the roster through the NFL Draft, free agency, and potential trades. With the NFL Draft a little over three months away, New England may want to move quickly to solidify their coaching staff.