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The New England Patriots have found their new leading man. Robert Kraft has tapped linebackers coach Jerod Mayo to ascend as the organization's next head coach and succeed franchise icon Bill Belichick, the team announced Friday.

Mayo was looked at as the odds-on favorite to land this role even before Belichick and the team parted ways on Jan. 11. Last offseason, the team came out with an unprecedented statement saying that they had engaged Mayo in contract extension talks to keep him in New England and prevent him from opting for any head coaching opportunities elsewhere. That effort by the team along with Kraft explicitly even stating that Mayo was "a strong candidate to be the heir apparent" made it clear that he was a legitimate head coach-in-waiting in Foxborough.

This was a quick turnaround for the franchise to identify Mayo as its next head coach and was made possible, as NFL Media previously reported, because they had established a contractual succession plan and had previously communicated that to the league. Per NFL rules, a contract can include an agreement to become the club's next head coach, provided the agreement is filed with the league office, which New England did in this instance and allowed them to forgo the Rooney Rule and other standard hiring procedures. 

Mayo broke into the coaching ranks with the Patriots in 2019 and has served as the inside linebackers coach, in-title, since. That said, the 37-year-old has ascended over that time to be New England's de-facto defensive coordinator as he held play-calling duties with the organization on that side of the ball over the last few seasons. 

Of course, Mayo originally landed in Foxborough back in 2008 when the team drafted him with the No. 10 overall pick out of Tennessee. Over his eight-year career with the team, Mayo became part of a long list of Patriots greats at the middle linebacker position. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, a first-team All-Pro in 2010, a two-time Pro Bowler, and finished his career with 802 tackles in 103 regular season games. 

Now that Mayo is established as head coach, he will have his work cut out for him to improve on a club that went 4-13 in 2023, which was last place in the AFC East and the conference. Specifically, it will be interesting to see how Mayo builds up his coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They are looking to rebound off of an abysmal season where the offense averaged 13.9 points and 276.2 yards per game, both being the fewest totals in a season since 1992. 

On top of that, how the Patriots handle the front office -- with Belichick previously serving as the GM as well as head coach -- will be the next domino to follow. The Patriots are armed with the No. 3 overall pick at the 2024 NFL Draft and the third-most cap space in the league for Mayo and whoever they bring in to lead to the front office to get the organization back on track.