It’s open season for NFL head coaching positions and two Patriots staffers often mentioned during this time have two things clear: They’re open to listening but the only team they’re focused on is the Buffalo Bills.
Jerod Mayo, who has a big hand in what the Patriots do on defense, will “absolutely take the interview” with the Broncos, adding, “but right now it’s all about the Bills.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he has yet to hear from any teams but he’s “totally focused and immersed in the preparation for the Buffalo Bills.’’
Both indicated that getting an opportunity to be a head coach is something they would welcome, with Mayo saying that’s “always been” a goal and McDaniels, who coached the Broncos in 2009-10, saying, “if that’s in the cards for me, great.’’
Mayo’s named surfaced less than a day after the Broncos fired Vic Fangio on Saturday. Though just in his fourth coaching year, Mayo’s stock has risen quickly. The club’s first-round pick in 2008, the inside linebacker long had a reputation as a coach on the field. He interviewed for the Eagles’ job last offseason before Nick Sirianni was hired.
“It was a great experience. I was able to go out there and talk a lot about football, talk a lot about different philosophies,’’ Mayo said Tuesday. “It’s good to have those conversations, whether it’s around leadership philosophy, or team philosophy, team structure, all that stuff. So, I love talking ball, I love developing people. That’s one of the things I enjoy doing. But that’s always been the goal for me.”
Mayo, who has only been contacted by the Broncos so far, said he received some invaluable advice from Bill Belichick when he was preparing for last year’s interview.
“Yeah, Bill’s been great with us. 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,’’ he said, adding that his old coordinator, Matt Patricia, also provided guidance.
“Matty P has been a great resource. All of these guys have been great resources for me,’’ said Mayo. “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.”
Simultaneously preparing for a playoff opponent and getting your ducks in a row for a job interview can present challenges, acknowledged Mayo. He said he thought most other teams would understand that his current duties had to take priority.
“If that causes me not to get a job because I’m focused on the job at hand, so be it. I am happy here. If I don’t get a job because I’m focused on beating the Buffalo Bills, I’m OK. I was a first-round draft pick in 2008. I’m OK. And honestly, I don’t mean to have it sound that way, but my main focus is the guys in this room. It’s not about getting a job somewhere else. I have a job here right now. So, we’ll see what happens.”
McDaniels, who has interviewed a bunch of times over the last few seasons, said he has learned to always concentrate on his present team because, “My father taught me well to focus on where my feet are, and that’s where my feet are at.’’
The Patriots placed cornerback Jalen Mills on the reserve/COVID-19 list and restored defensive back Myles Bryant from the list.
The latest NFL/NFLPA protocols call for a five-day quarantine, but if Mills is vaccinated, he could be reinstated sooner. He would need to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart between now and Saturday. If Mills is unvaccinated, he would not have enough time to be cleared for Buffalo.
Mills has started all 16 games he’s played and has 47 tackles and eight passes defensed. It would be a big blow to the defense if he’s unable to play Saturday night.
Having Bryant (41 tackles, 3 passes defensed, 1 interception) back is a boost and the club does have Joejuan Williams and Justin Bethel on the active roster as well as D’Angelo Ross, De’Vante Bausby, and newly signed Cre’Von LeBlanc on the practice squad.
LeBlanc, who was brought into the fold Tuesday, entered the league with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2016. He had an impressive training camp, though he didn’t make the initial roster. He seemed destined for the practice squad, but was claimed by the Bears, who had an up-close look at LeBlanc during the teams’ joint practices that summer. He’s played in 52 career games, mostly with the Bears and Eagles.
The club also brought in defensive back Money Hunter for a tryout. Aside from having one of the best nicknames in the game, Hunter also was a standout at Arkansas State. Hunter, whose full name is Monshadrick, is the son of former major league baseball player Torii Hunter and was recently with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.
Ivan Fears, who is in his 25th season with the Patriots, the last 19 as running backs coach, struck a similar tone to Mayo and McDaniels when asked if he plans to return next season. “I have one play in mind right now, one-track mind, and that’s the Buffalo Bills and this playoff game. After that, who knows? Hopefully we’ll be still playing and that’s what it’s all about,’’ he said. “I am not thinking about anything else, nor planning anything else at this time.’’ … The Patriots didn’t practice Tuesday but were required to file an estimated injury report. Defensive lineman Christian Barmore (knee) and left tackle Isaiah Wynn (ankle), who were hurt in the loss in Miami Sunday, were among a dozen players listed as limited. That was also the classification for safety Kyle Dugger (hand) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee), both of whom missed the Dolphins game. It was just an estimate, and things might be different Wednesday, but it was good news that they were not listed as DNPs … Others who were limited: center David Andrews (shoulder); running back Damien Harris (hamstring); receiver Jakobi Meyers (thigh); defensive lineman Lawrence Guy (shoulder); safety Adrian Phillips (knee); special teamers Brandon King (toe) and Cody Davis (wrist); and kicker Nick Folk (left knee) … The Patriots signed receiver Malcolm Perry to a reserve futures contract. He was with the team for a brief stint earlier this season.