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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Jerod Mayo has never been shy about his goals. The former Patriots Pro Bowler turned insider linebackers coach has always been up front about wanting to become an NFL head coach.
Now it appears that Mayo’s dream might become a reality very soon.
Last week, the Denver Broncos put in a request to interview the 35-year-old for their head-coaching vacancy. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported also that Mayo is expected to be the top candidate for the Houston Texans job opening as well.
Mayo said he plans on taking the interview with the Broncos and added that becoming a head coach "always has been" his career goal.
How to watch Patriots-Bills playoff game: TV, radio and streaming options
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Mayo said when he was asked about receiving interest from other teams. “I mean, it’s great. At the end of the day, I will say this: I’m fully focused on the Buffalo Bills, but it’s definitely a huge opportunity. Hopefully, one day, I get a chance to coach a team.”
The Patriots' first-round pick, 10th overall, in 2008, Mayo was a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker with New England. He won one championship — in Super Bowl XLIX — and joined the coaching staff in 2019. Mayo was quickly identified as a future NFL head coach thanks to his football IQ, his playing experience and his ability to relate to players.
Mayo was interviewed by the Philadelphia Eagles for their head coaching job last season following his second year as an NFL assistant coach. He’s expected to interview with the Broncos and eventually the Texans in the coming weeks. There’s a clear connection in Houston with general manager Nick Caserio, who was with the Patriots from 2001-2020.
The NFL interviewing process can be stressful. Mayo said he’s leaned on Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and last year’s quarterbacks coach, Jedd Fisch, for advice.
“Bill’s been great with us," Mayo said. "He’s been an open book for me whether we’re talking about X’s and O’s, or structuring a team, or anything like that. He’s been great.
“Matty P has been a great resource. All of these guys have been great resources for me. But, really, the focus is about the season, but at the same time, development has always been a huge factor for me, as far as coaching is concerned. There’s a bunch of guys around here, including Josh McDaniels, even a guy like Jedd Fisch who was here, those guys have been great mentors and great resources for me.”
Patriots missing some parts
The Patriots went into Saturday’s playoff game without two key contributors on both sides of the ball.
The team ruled out left tackle Isaiah Wynn due to an ankle injury suffered last weekend in Miami. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills entered the weekend still on the reserve/COVID-19 list along with backup cornerback Shaun Wade.
Both absences are problematic for the Patriots.
There is no clear-cut, adequate backup for Mills. Joejuan Williams could be the next man up, but he struggled in his only start this year in Houston when Mills was inactive. To add more depth, the Pats elevated cornerbacks D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby from the practice squad.
Ross is a slot cornerback, so Bausby could help fill in for Mills. The 6-foot-2-inch corner has good size and experience. He’s started six NFL games in his career, including three last year for Denver. He had a career-high five pass breakups in 2020. He started one game against Bills quarterback Josh Allen last year, in Week 15. Allen threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns that day against the Broncos' defense.
Wynn started 16-of-17 games this season. When he suffered the ankle injury in Miami, he was replaced by backup Justin Herron. Wynn played the fifth-most offensive snaps (916) this season for the Patriots' offense. Herron started four games this season, mainly filling in for Trent Brown at right tackle.
The Patriots also elevated wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson and defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale for Saturday’s wild-card game. Ekuale was elevated for seven games this season. Wilkerson played in three contests and looked great in his first start against Jacksonville, finishing with four receptions, 42 yards and two touchdowns.
J.C. Jackson has set himself up very nicely heading into this offseason.
On Saturday, Jackson was named to The Associated Press All-Pro Second Team for the first time in his career. This comes after the cornerback was named a Pro Bowler for the first time. Jackson finished first in the NFL in passes defended with 23 and second in the league in interceptions with eight. He received 25 All-Pro votes, trailing cornerbacks Trevon Diggs of Dallas, who had 33 votes, and Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams, who had 32.
Jackson will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
The only other Patriots player to receive an All-Pro honor was special teamer Matthew Slater, who earned a spot on the second team. This adds to Slater's legendary resumé. He now has 10 Pro Bowl honors to go with five All-Pro honors — two first team and three second team.
Other Patriots receiving votes included linebacker Matthew Judon (three), long snapper Joe Cardona (three), Adrian Phillips (two), kicker (one) and right guard Shaq Mason (one).
Interest in another Pats staffer
Mayo isn’t the only Patriots employee attracting interest around the NFL.
Permission to interview Patriots front office consultant Eliot Wolf has been requested by the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears for their vacant general manager positions.
Wolf joined the Patriots organization in 2020 after Caserio left. He was previously the Cleveland Browns assistant GM (2018-2019) and worked in the Green Bay front office from 2004-2017. Wolf played a big role in the Patriots' 2021 draft selections. Prior to the draft, Belichick had praised the work of Wolf, as well as Dave Ziegler, the team's director of player personnel, and Matt Groh, the director of college scouting.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Pats coach Jerod Mayo a coaching candidate around the league