Jerod Mayo will be a first-time head coach, and the youngest in the NFL.

He’ll also be following one of the winningest coaches in NFL history in Bill Belichick, who built the New England Patriots into one of the league’s preeminent franchises.

And the former Patriots player and Belichick assistant is embracing all of it, promising first and foremost that the Patriots’ new era would be led by someone who is very much his own man.

“I’m not trying to be Bill,” Mayo said during his introductory news conference Wednesday. “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.”

Mayo’s also not shying away from what it means to him to be the Patriots’ first Black head coach in a league that had just three at the start of the 2023 season: Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) and DeMeco Ryans (Houston).

“You’d better believe being the first Black coach here in New England means a lot to me,” Mayo said, adding later, “I do see color because I believe if you don’t see color, you can’t see racism.”

While his hire is a milestone he acknowledges, it's one he showed he is comfortable carrying, subtly ribbing Patriots owner Robert Kraft after he inadvertently mispronounced the name of Mayo’s brother, Shermont.

“It’s all right. It’s one of those Black names,” Mayo joked, soliciting laughter throughout the room.

During a nearly 30-minute question and answer session, the 37-year-old exhibited all the attributes Kraft said stood out to him while watching Mayo the past 16 years — first for eight seasons as a player and the past five on New England’s coaching staff.

Kraft first noticed his confidence when he met Mayo in 2008 shortly after the Patriots drafted him 10th overall out of Tennessee.

“I remember him immediately coming up to me and saying, ‘Kraft and Mayo, they go together pretty well,’” Kraft said. “Sixteen years later, here we are.”

Along the way Kraft observed Mayo — who refers to the 82-year-old Kraft as “Young Thunder Cat” — be chosen seven times as a captain by his Patriots teammates, win a Super Bowl ring in the 2014 season and then take a job in corporate America as an executive at Optum after retiring in 2015.

When Mayo returned to football in 2019 to serve as Belichick’s linebackers coach, Kraft saw an even more skilled person who hadn’t lost his ability to relate to players.

That same year Mayo accompanied Kraft on a trip to Israel and got to know him on an even more personal level. Kraft then made an internal prediction.

“I knew while observing him in Israel, he was the right person to be the next head coach of the New England Patriots,” Kraft said. “I had that same conviction when I hired Bill Belichick, a decision that many questioned at the time, and told me I was making a major error.”

Kraft is hoping his instincts prove to be right again.

But that will fall now on Mayo, who will be navigating a landscape in New England that will look much different from the one Belichick led for the better part of his 24-year tenure as both coach and de facto general manager.

A 4-13 finish this season has given the Patriots the third overall draft pick, the highest selection they've had since Kraft purchased the team in 1994.

They could use it to bolster an offense that finished near the bottom of the league in several categories. One of the biggest decisions of the offseason will be whether or not to move on from third-year quarterback Mac Jones, who had his least productive season. Jones was one of several players who listened to Mayo from the back of the room Wednesday.

Kraft said lots of voices will be involved in both the draft and the personnel decisions for now.

“In the short term, we’re looking for collaboration,” Kraft said. “We’re going to let that evolve and develop, and before the key decisions have to be made, we will appoint someone. At the same time, we’ll probably start doing interviews and looking at people from the outside.”

Mayo has also started initial interviews for assistant coaching jobs, though he didn’t have a timeline.

“Everything is still under consideration. Obviously, the staff that I’ve been working with isn’t the staff that I have chosen, but everything is under evaluation," he said.

And while his predecessor had at times undefined titles for his coaches, Mayo said his staff would have more defined roles.

"I think titles are important,” Mayo said. “But as far as in the building, I don’t care what your title is. It’s what’s your job, what value do you bring to the organization. I think that’s the most important thing.”

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