How Patriots, Jerod Mayo Set New Standard While Introducing Coaching Staff

With Jerod Mayo leading the way, the post-Bill Belichick Patriots set a new, refreshing standard while revealing their new coaching staff.

FOXBORO, Mass. — Whether the New England Patriots will be any good without Bill Belichick remains to be seen. But we already know New England will look, feel, and sound much different with Jerod Mayo as its head coach.

That much was clear on Wednesday afternoon when, at the behest of Mayo, the Patriots held news conferences for their three new coordinators: Alex Van Pelt (offense), DeMarcus Covington (defense), and Jeremy Springer (special teams). But the really good stuff took place an hour later.

Jerod Mayo Sets New Standard With the Media

First of all, Wednesday’s media availability was a near-unprecedented event. Under Belichick, the Patriots typically didn’t formally announce coaching hires and/or reveal roles until releasing the annual media guide sometime during the summer.

Despite leaking all of the relevant information to insiders early in the offseason, Belichick would play coy about his staff and swat away questions about it in public settings. Infamously, he kept Matt Patricia’s role in 2022 a secret until the season opener.

That clearly isn’t going to be Mayo’s style. New England on Monday announced 17 coaching hires while revealing titles for each coach. A day later, the Patriots announced would be able to ask questions to coordinators normally unavailable until spring — at the earliest.

Once Wednesday’s media availability arrived, it was immediately obvious that things would be different.

Belichick preferred to stand behind a podium, both figuratively and literally looking down on a group of seated reporters. But the podium was swapped for a regular table, indicating Mayo prefers a casual vibe while being at eye level with reporters.

However, before Mayo entered the room, Stacey James, the Patriots’ vice president of communications, announced a stunner, albeit a welcome one.

Roughly 30 minutes after the news conferences, reporters would be invited to an hour-long, off-the-record “social” with each new member of the coaching staff. Recording audio, taking photos, and reporting on what coaches said would be prohibited, but media members nevertheless would have open, informal access to the new hires, plus Mayo and de facto general manager Eliot Wolf.

Obviously, this kind of thing rarely — if ever — happened while Belichick was around, especially toward the end of his tenure.

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“Today is really about the new coaches,” Mayo said after taking a seat at the table. “We’ll have our coordinators up here to speak to you guys. Afterward, the rest of our new coaches — I think we have 17 new coaches — will come down, and, hopefully, we’ll get a chance to really vibe and connect.

“They know that our relationship with the media is very important. I think there needs to be a good relationship between the two groups. Hopefully, I’ll try to make myself available as much as possible.”

What a difference.

As for his actual news conference, Mayo was relatively transparent. Preferring to focus on the coaches, he declined to take any questions on roster building, including what the Patriots will do at quarterback this offseason. But the first-year head coach did offer some newsworthy bits.

He confirmed Patriots legend Troy Brown will remain on the staff, though not as a receivers coach, the job he held the last three seasons. Mayo also said the Patriots are “pretty set” with their staff but still are “thinking about” adding other roles. When asked about assembling a staff far larger than what was the norm under Belichick, Mayo was refreshingly honest.

“Historically, we’ve always had small staffs,” he said. “It’s hard to get things done that way in today’s NFL.”

Alex Van Pelt Leaves Door Open for Mac Jones’ Return

Everyone wants to know how the Patriots will handle the quarterback position.

Will they use the third pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on a new signal-caller? Will they look to add a veteran? Could Mac Jones somehow return as the starter after his disastrous third season?

Van Pelt, New England’s undeniably personable offensive coordinator, was asked the last question midway through his presser.

“Really, right now, everything is on the table,” he said. “As we go through this process … we’re trying to understand who we have here, as well as looking at other players out there.

“But right now, everything is on the table, and we’re just still working through that process. When the time comes, I’m sure it’ll be a collaborative effort and we’ll make the right decisions.”

Van Pelt, who said he’s already met with Jones, also was asked to describe his ideal quarterback.

“Smart, tough, and a leader,” he said. “You put them in those categories. Obviously, there’s accuracy in the pass game, mobility, decision-making, there’s a lot that goes into it. But at the end of the day, that role is such an important one not just for the offense but the entire team.

“A guy who’s a true leader, who can come in and understands his teammates and gets the best out of those guys.”

DeMarcus Covington Seizing Control of Defense

The 34-year-old DC oozes confidence, as he should. Covington, who did a masterful job as the Patriots’ defensive line coach the last four seasons, deserved his promotion.

Covington said he doesn’t anticipate many philosophical changes to New England’s defense, which was excellent in 2023. But he knows how he wants the group to play.

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“What we want to see is a physical team,” Covington said. “A team that plays with good discipline and fundamentals. A team that attacks the football and takes it away from the opponent. That’s what we’re trying to look for with our defense. And a team that goes out there and plays together, for one another. That type of togetherness is what we’re looking for.”

But will Covington call plays for the defense, or will Mayo handle those responsibilities?

“I do plan on calling plays,” said Covington, who quietly studied for the role over the last few years.

“This is something that I’ve been preparing [for]. This is something I wanted to do. So you already take the necessary steps to prepare yourself when you get the opportunity.”

Jeremy Springer Taps Into Patriots Nostalgia

If all goes well, Patriots fans won’t need to see or hear Jeremy Springer, New England’s first-year special teams coordinator. But they might want to anyway.

Springer, eager to return the Patriots’ special teams to its former glory, is full of energy. He answered each question with genuine excitement and was equally engaging during the off-record social.

At one point during his presser, the 34-year-old Springer talked about watching Adam Vinatieri’s famous snow kick as a young Texan. He later was asked to elaborate.

“That’s a great question right there,” Springer said. ” … I was back in Los Fresnos, Texas, where I’m from. I was at the second floor of our two-story house, townhome, watching it on TV with my brother.”

Springer, new to frigid New England winters, added: “I think I might have been 12 years old. I had never been in snow before, so I was watching that game and was like, ‘That looks really cold.’ I just thought it was a big-time play. It was fun to watch it as a fan.”

Ultimately, Springer’s goals for Patriots special teams are straightforward.

“Get to a level of being in the top five,” he said. “Being a team where every play we take the field teams got to prepare for us because we’re going to play at an elite level.”

Was This a One-Off Event?

It’s easy for the Patriots to be this open in the offseason. It’s another thing to keep it up if they got off to a slow start.

Regardless, it’s a smart move. Not only does it create a healthier relationship with the media, but it also makes them a more likable and relatable franchise to those outside the bubble of One Patriot Place. Belichick’s military-esque control of the franchise clearly had its advantages, but it also became antiquated and counter-productive.

KEEP READING: 2024 NFL Top 100 Free Agent Rankings

The Patriots are barely a month into the Mayo era. But so far, so good.

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