What kind of coach will Patriots’ Jerod Mayo be?

Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Mayo’s approach: When free agent running back Antonio Gibson arrived at Gillette Stadium in mid-March to sign his three-year contract with the Patriots, he had his daughter Taylor with him. Gibson said the way head coach Jerod Mayo showed Taylor love made an impression on him, as well as how Mayo felt like “one of the guys.”

Receiver K.J. Osborn came away from his initial meeting with the feeling that Mayo is “a real down-to-earth guy.” He added: “As a former player, he was really easy to talk to; he’s a players’ coach and I love that.”

Likewise, veteran tight end Austin Hooper sat down with Mayo in the team cafeteria during his visit, with Hooper saying: “I was able to understand who he is — a family man — and what he’s trying to build here. It was really productive.”

The stories reflect what Mayo previously said would be a foundational part of his coaching style: Building bonds with players, showing he cares about them as people, before hopefully pushing them to achieve their greatest potential as players.

Can it work?

Owner Robert Kraft is banking on it after moving on from the legendary Bill Belichick after 24 seasons. The last time Kraft made a coaching switch, in 2000, it was from the lighter touch of Pete Carroll to the more buttoned-up, hard-lined Belichick. This time, Kraft said he is trusting his instincts by tapping Mayo, with the thinking that a more relational-based approach — and overall team culture — is the needed spark to help return the franchise to prominence.

Part of that is tied to the current generation of players coming into the NFL, with former Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty, who is part of NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” show, acknowledging, “The league is in a little bit of a transition. Players now are different than when I first came in.”

McCourty, 36, entered the NFL in 2009 with the Tennessee Titans — one year after Mayo was selected in the first round by the Patriots. He believes Mayo’s approach can work, citing what he experienced himself with the Dolphins in 2022.

“I didn’t get a chance to play for Mike McDaniel, but I got a chance to meet with him. I was injured and was still in the building in March [when he was hired], and we sat down and talked for probably 30-40 minutes. The first time I ever met him — the quirkiness, and the things about him we’ve all seen transpire over the last two years — that’s who he was,” McCourty said.

“So I look at it for Jerod, the best thing you can do for yourself is be yourself, and be honest. I think the worst thing that can possibly happen is for players to see you act one way for however many years that he’s been there as a linebackers coach, and next thing you know you become the head guy and you totally flip because now more things fall on you and you have to make more decisions.”

McCourty added that most players understand the NFL is a business and they appreciate honesty. He pointed to how his Patriots career ended as an example of why he holds no hard feelings toward New England — or any of his former teams.

“As rough around the edges as people say Bill [Belichick] is, when I was a free agent that last year, he called me to check in multiple times throughout free agency. The first time it was to say, ‘Hey, you know how much we love you here, but at this time we’re not looking to sign you.’ And the last time was ‘If you have other opportunities, you should explore them.’ So I think as a player you can appreciate that,” he said.

“From Jerod, I think as long as he keeps that the main thing, him being a players’ coach — or however you want to phrase it — I think that’s who he is. So inviting family in, showing guys ‘Hey, this is who I am, this is who I’m going to be every single day whether we win or whether we lose,’ I think that can go a long way.”

McCourty compared this style to how Andy Reid is like in Kansas City.

“They call him ‘Big Red.’ They laugh with him and talk about eating cheeseburgers and all those things,” McCourty said. “I called their game in Germany and they were going through some things, and I remember talking to Travis Kelce and he was like, ‘Big Red had to get after us in the team meeting room, and he let us know exactly where we stood as a football team.’

“I think that’s who Mayo probably was as a player. It’s no different from when you’re leading a huddle and you have to tell a guy about himself, but you’re also enjoying moments with those guys in the locker room. I think you can do both, but you have to set a standard and an expectation for what it’s going to be, and you live up to that every single day.”

2. Scouting QBs: Mayo and director of scouting Eliot Wolf were among those from the organization attending USC pro day Wednesday, and then Michigan pro day Friday. That gave them a closer look at quarterbacks Caleb Williams (USC) and J.J. McCarthy (Michigan). And this week, they will likely be at LSU on Wednesday for Jayden Daniels and North Carolina on Thursday for Drake Maye.

Many project the Patriots will be selecting a quarterback with the No. 3 pick, and their scouting schedule will only reinforce that thought.

3. NFL meeting: The NFL’s annual meeting takes place Sunday through Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, with Mayo scheduled to address reporters Monday at 7:45 a.m. as part of the AFC coaches breakfast. Kraft traditionally has answered questions from reporters at the meeting.

Barring a late change, Wolf isn’t scheduled to attend, perhaps allowing him to focus more on what Kraft has referred to as the most anticipated draft in his 31-year ownership tenure.

4. One extra week: Because Mayo is a new head coach, the Patriots can start their voluntary offseason program two weeks early, per league rules. But Mayo has elected to split the difference, taking only one extra week. So the Patriots are set to start April 8.

5. JMac’s view: Through the first wave of free agency, McCourty still sees “a lot of holes” across the Patriots’ roster, notably at quarterback and receiver. He believes Mayo and Wolf will need multiple years to replenish them.

Conversely, he pointed to the team retaining right tackle Mike Onwenu and safety Kyle Dugger (via the transition tag) as “a step in the right direction” because “it sets an expectation for guys in the locker room — ‘we drafted these guys, developed them, they’re some of the best at their position, so when you do the right thing in the building we want to show you we want you here for the long term.'”

6. Core STs: The release of core special teamer Chris Board, who was a Belichick favorite, seems to reflect a philosophical shift with the new Patriots regime. Whereas Belichick was more willing to invest at the top of the market for core special teamers who might not contribute as much (if at all) in other areas, Mayo and Wolf appear less willing. Board, who played defense with the Ravens and Lions, wasn’t viewed as a fit on defense in New England.

7. Quiet on Bryant: Free agent defensive back Myles Bryant, who played 75% of the defensive snaps last season and was fourth on the Patriots with 77 tackles, remains on the market after spending the past four seasons in New England. My read: He lost a top advocate in Belichick. The Patriots would be open to bringing him back on a salary that reflects him more as a depth player than key cog, but there’s been no alignment to date.

8. They said it: “It’s less about the rawness of the quarterback and more about the situation that quarterback is walking into. You look at what happened with Carolina last year, I see a lot of similarities — in terms of the lack of separation amongst the skill players, some question marks along the offensive line…” — ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes, on “The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny,” opining on the possibility of the Patriots drafting a quarterback at No. 3 and not having him play right away to avoid a similar situation as No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young in 2023.

9. Did you know, Part I: Since 2010, the Patriots have selected eight quarterbacks in the NFL draft, tied with the Jets and Titans for most in the NFL.

10. Did you know, Part II: The Patriots, who own the No. 3 overall pick, have never picked third in franchise history (since 1960).

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