Patriots assistant Jerrod Mayo considered frontrunner to replace Bill Belichick: sources

Hours after Bill Belichick announced his split, the New England Patriots have a clear front-runner for the coaching job vacated by a legend.

All signs point to Jerrod Mayo becoming the franchise's 15th head coach, according to league sources who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Mayo was lured into coaching by Belichick in 2019 and has become one of Belichick's most trusted assistants, helping develop the team's defensive game plans in recent seasons.

Now, barring a change of heart from owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Mayo will become Belichick's successor. An announcement may come in the middle of next week.

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'He's Bill Belichick 2.0': Could Jerrod Mayo Be the Next Patriots Coach?

Because of previously unknown language in Mayo's contract, stipulations of the league's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to conduct in-person interviews with at least two outside minority candidates, and an anti-tampering policy, the process can happen very quickly. The language in Mayo's contract was first reported by NFL Network.

Conditions in the Rooney Rule and anti-tampering policy require teams to bypass the regular interview process and write a succession plan and communicate with the league before the start of the season. The Patriots did just that with Mayo, according to a league source.

Three teams have used this arrangement before: Baltimore Ravens hired general manager Eric DeCosta, Indianapolis Colts former coach Jim Caldwell and Seattle Seahawks hired former coach Jim Mora Jr.

That said, things are yet to be finalized with Mayo. The Krafts spent much of Wednesday discussing next steps with Belichick and deciding on his departure. They formally celebrated the split Thursday and the success Belichick brought to New England. On Friday, they can begin to turn the page and look forward to a looming apprenticeship search.

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But the language in Mayo's contract, according to a league source, means the Crofts have been planning to turn on Mayo since renegotiating his contract a year ago.

Can there be a curve ball?

Yes. There is no formal head coaching agreement with Mayo. Talks can break down, people can change their minds or decide to look elsewhere. But this newly learned language allows the Patriots to move quickly to Mayo if they choose, which was the original plan.

Of course, things can change. Perhaps the availability of Mike Vrabel — who was fired from the Tennessee Titans this week — could prompt the Patriots to cast a wider net in their search and interview more people. They can choose to see what other candidates are interested in. But unlike most teams, they aren't obligated because Mayo decided to write off Belichick before the season.

Why do they love mayo so much?

Simply put, everyone gravitates towards Mayo. Mayo was drafted 10th overall by Belichick in 2008 and was the team leader as a linebacker. He walked into a locker room full of star players during the 2007 undefeated regular season — and quickly earned their respect, becoming captain in his second season. When he was injured toward the end of his career, Mayo became close to Bill's son Steve Belichick and studied film with him.

He did not initially enter coaching after retiring as a player in 2015, choosing to explore other interests, including business. But Belichick wooed Mayo again because he was so impressed by Mayo as a player, and thought Mayo wanted to be a football coach. Now, the 37-year-old appears poised to succeed Belichick.

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(Photo: Chris Unger / Getty Images)

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