Last night, Matt Patricia became the latest branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree that failed to bear fruit. The Detroit Lions parted ways with New England’s former defensive coordinator after a disappointing three-year stint where the rocket-scientist-turned-football-coach posted an uninspiring 13-29-1 record.
Patricia might be the latest, but he’s far from the only Belichick disciple that failed to pan out. For whatever reason, Belichick’s prodigies struggle outside of New England, for the most part. However, taking a look back shows that there are a few successful coaches to come out of Foxboro.
Looking Back at the Bill Belichick Coaching Tree
Former special teams coordinator Joe Judge is the newest branch on the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Currently in his first year with the New York Giants, it’s too early to say what will become of his tenure. Through 11 games, Judge has the Giants sitting at 3-7 and just one game out of first in the atrocious NFC East. All three wins came against NFC East competition, so make of that what you will.
The Detroit Lions were not expecting a rebuild when they hired Patricia. After consecutive 9-7 campaigns, Patricia was supposed to be the guy to take the team to the next level. Armed with Matthew Stafford, a solid defense, and a good supporting cast, the Lions were supposed to go back to the playoffs in 2018.
That didn’t happen. Patricia struggled during his first season, guiding the Lions to a disappointing 6-10 record. The vast majority of the players hated the man, going so far as to throw a locker room mimosa party to celebrate the end of the season. It didn’t get better over the next two years as Patricia failed to record more than four wins. Upon his firing, several former players took to Twitter to celebrate the coach losing his job.
Right now, Brian Flores looks like the most successful of the bunch. Taking over for Adam Gase, Flores and the Dolphins entered a full rebuild in 2019, trading away guys like Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick while looking towards the future. Flores could have easily lost the locker room, but he managed to keep his team intact while guiding what was probably the least talented roster in football to a 5-11 record.
Right now, Flores seems to have the Dolphins one year ahead of schedule. After building the foundation of their future in the offseason, Miami currently sits at an impressive 6-4 and in the thick of the postseason race. It’s irresponsible to draw massive conclusions over a two-year stretch, but all signs point towards Flores being the real deal.
Bill O’Brien is a terrible general manager, but he was actually a pretty solid coach early in his career. Overall, the former Houston Texans head coach has a respectable 52-48 record as a head coach. While a great quarterback like Deshaun Watson can inflate a win-loss record, O’Brien managed to pull out winning records with guys like Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage running the offense.
While he’s best known for his time in Houston, O’Brien also spent some time in the collegiate ranks. Back in 2013, O’Brien faced the unenviable job of coaching Penn State right after the sex abuse scandal. O’Brien handled the transition with aplomb while guiding Penn State to a 15-9 record over his two seasons at the helm. Ultimately, he’s a good-but-not-great coach that simply took on more than he could handle in Houston.
Josh McDaniels had an absolutely terrible run away from New England and might just be the worst product of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Hired by the Denver Broncos at the young age of 33, McDaniels started his head coaching career with some quarterback controversy. McDaniels reportedly preferred Matt Cassel to Jay Cutler, and tried to orchestrate a three-way trade involving the quarterbacks. While that trade fell through, Cutler lost trust in McDaniels and demanded another trade. On April 2nd, the Broncos traded Cutler for Kyle Orton and a variety of picks.
The drama didn’t end there, however. The Broncos fell apart after a 6-0 start to the season, finishing at 8-8 while missing the playoffs. McDaniels traded star wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason before guiding the Broncos to a 3-9 record in 2010. The Broncos ultimately parted ways with McDaniels following a videotaping scandal.
McDaniels spent the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. The offense finished at or near the bottom in every major statistical category, although it’s worth noting that starting quarterback Sam Bradford missed the vast majority of the season to injury. Following that tumultuous campaign, McDaniels returned to New England and has remained there ever since.
Nobody hates the New York Jets more than Bill Belichick, and he never truly forgave Eric Mangini for jumping ship and joining Gang Green. At 35 years old, Mangini was the NFL’s youngest head coach at the time and actually got off to a great start. During his first season at the helm, Mangini guided the Jets to a 10-6 record and a Wild Card berth.
However, the wheels quickly came off the wagon. The 2007 Jets faltered to a 4-12 record, with the only highlight of the season being Mangini complaining to league officials about illegal filming. The Jets missed the playoffs for the second straight season, and the team parted ways with the coach after the season.
Mangini didn’t have to wait long to earn his next head coaching job. Signing with the Cleveland Browns in 2009, the former New England assistant guided the Browns to two separate 5-11 seasons before getting fired. Since then, Mangini has not had another head coaching opportunity.
Romeo Crennel and Bill Belichick go way back, as the two spent time together with the New York Giants, New York Jets, and New England Patriots. Serving as Belichick’s defensive coordinator from 2001-2004, Crennel got his first head coaching job in 2005 with the Cleveland Browns. Crennel struggled at first, leading Cleveland to a 10-22 record over his first two seasons. However, the Browns went 10-6 in 2007, and Crennel earned another year at the helm. Unfortunately, that success proved to be a one-year outlier, as the 2008 Browns went 4-12 and Crennel lost his job.
The defensive-minded coach landed on his feet, earning a defensive coordinator position with the Kansas City Chiefs. Following a solid 2010 campaign, Crennel became interim head coach for the final three games of 2011. He guided the Chiefs to a 2-1 record, and the front office decided to make Crennel the full-time head coach in 2012. Unfortunately for him, the season went off the rails, as Kansas City finished 2-14 and Crennel, once again, was out of a job.
Crennel is currently the interim head coach for the Houston Texans. Since firing Bill O’Brien, the Texans are 4-3 under Crennel’s watch.
Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis never earned a head coaching opportunity in the NFL. Instead, the four-time Super Bowl champion made his name in the college football ranks. In 2005, Weis began his head coaching career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. With Brady Quinn running the offense, Weis led Notre Dame to a 9-2 record during his first season at the helm, and followed it up with a 10-2 record in 2006.
Despite the hot start, things quickly derailed for Weis and the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame went just 16-21 over the next three years, leading Weis and Notre Dame to part ways after the 2009 season. After spending two years as an offensive coordinator, Weis earned a second head coaching job with Kansas. This tenure was an absolute disaster, as Weis went just 6-22 during his three years at the helm.
Embed from Getty Images