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A New Day for New England Football

Jada Ingleton | 101 Magazine Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo (Courtesy of NBC Sports Boston)

After ending the season with a 17-3 loss to the New York Jets, the bells had rung for the New England Patriots, who had just finished the previous year at 8-9. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was on the hot seat due to his poor performance after the departure of former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Since Brady’s move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick has made the playoffs – the 2022 Wild Card – once with a loss in the first round against the Buffalo Bills, and finished three of the four seasons under .500 or an equal number of wins and losses.. Belichick wasn’t just the head coach, but also the general manager and one in charge of player personnel. Post Brady, Belichick also hasn’t drafted well, with only two All-Pro players, one being a punter, one of the least valuable positions on the field.

After the season, Belichick met with owner of the Patriots,Robert Kraft, and settled on parting ways–the end of an era. Belichick won six super bowls as the Patriots’ head coach and was at the helm of arguably the most dominant dynasty in NFL history. With Belichick out, the Patriots decided to promote linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo is a former Patriots linebacker, Super Bowl champion, and a Black man. With few black men as head coaches in the NFL, this hire is of major significance. 

Mayo is already making waves as the first Black head coach in Patriots history and the youngest head coach in the league. During his introductory press conference, Mayo showed his disagreement on race in the NFL with Kraft. Race in the NFL is a topic that has been at the forefront of the league for the past few years making the differences in the two answers unalarming yet important. When asked about being the franchise’s head coach, Kraft said, “Let me say this to you: I’m really colorblind in terms of what I feel like on Sunday when we lose.” The Patriots’ 82-year-old owner said that after his family and the team, winning is what matters most.

Kraft and Mayo at the Jan. 17 introductory press conference. (Courtesy of New England Patriots/YouTube).

“Winning and the Patriots is my passion. So, I want to get the best people I can get,” Kraft said. “I chose the best head coach for this organization. He happens to be a man of color, but I chose him because I believe he’s the best to do the job.”

Mayo followed that statement by saying, “I do see color because I believe if you don’t see color, you can’t see racism.”

The NFL – a league that has faced numerous racial discrimination lawsuits – has always had a disproportionate number of white to Black head coaches. Now, it holds five Black head coaches, four of which were hired this offseason.

In 2003, the Rooney rule was created to make diversity more vigilant in the NFL when it comes to hiring coaches. The rule ensures that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching positions and senior football operation jobs. Seeing as New England did not interview anyone for the head coaching position, Mayo’s quick hire circumvented the rule, though they did notify the league of their decision to hire him prior to his official promotion. Since there was previous notification, they were not required to conduct a full search for a head coach.

Jerod Mayo on the sidelines in a 2009 game. (Courtesy/Wikipedia)

When asked why he chose Jerod Mayo, Kraft said, “I should have gone with my instincts and hired Bill [Belichick]. I have the same feeling now having watched Jerod for 16 years, in a lot of different situations. We try to do what’s right for our system and I think we got someone very special who understands how to manage young people today.” Kraft made it known that the Patriots had a succession plan in place so they could enter the new phase of Patriots football with clarity.

Mayo has a long way to go before he creates a winning standard. The previous standard set by Belichick won’t be forgotten, but Mayo has playing and coaching experience giving him reliability, something Belichick can’t offer. During the press conference he said, “For me, I’m not trying to be Bill. I think that Bill is his own man. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a little bit different even up here. But what I will say is the more I think about lessons I’ve taken from Bill, hard work works. Hard work works, and that’s what we’re all about.”Fortunately for him, he has the third pick in the 2024 NFL draft, along with the 34th (second round), the 68th pick (third round), and several other late round draft picks. Mayo will also have a fresh coaching staff along with the opportunity to sign new players and make trades.

Toussaint Fancher

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