From Belichick to McDaniels – falling out of the Belichick coaching tree

Week 5 serves us some incredibly unappetizing NFL games. Giants at Bills anyone? No? That’s what I thought. Vikings at Bears doesn’t promise much either with Justin Jefferson injured. But the game that could be the ugliest of all is the Patriots traveling to Vegas to play the Raiders.
New England Patriots v New York Jets
New England Patriots v New York Jets / Elsa/GettyImages

But it does bring together Josh McDaniels and his two-time boss Bill Belichick. Like the majority of the Belichick coaching tree, McDaniels has never really flourished as the main man. He was somewhat of a child prodigy when he got his first head coaching job, the 33-year-old McDaniels would end his first season as Broncos’ head honcho at 8-8. He hasn’t won that many games as a head coach since, in three full seasons as a head coach he’s 17-28.

So, who else has left the safety of the Belichick embrace only to stumble as an NFL head coach? Well, obviously there’s Eagles Senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia. Patricia was Belichick’s defensive coordinator for six years before his disastrous spell in Detroit. In the two- and a-bit seasons he spent in Michigan Patricia would only win 13 games, losing 29, somehow, he even managed to tie a game.  

Another defensive coordinator, the Browns Jim Schwartz was a scout under Nick Saban when Belichick was the head coach in Cleveland. Schwartz is widely believed to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. But it was a different case as a head coach, in his stint in Detroit Schwartz went 29-51 in five seasons.  

Those are some of the many unsuccessful Belichick employees, but has anyone actually left his warm embrace and been a winner? Failing to equip your staff with the tools they’ll need to succeed after they have left your team is actually a smart move when you think about it. You don’t want to raise the standard of your competitors, do you? That’s probably why Belichick has won 13 games against his former Patriots’ assistants.  

Not many coaches have managed sustained success after leaving Belichick’s side. Romeo Crennel, Joe Judge and even Nick Saban ended their head coaching careers, in the NFL, at least, with losing records after leaving Belichick.  

Bill O’Brien on the other hand had an impressive 52-48 record after seven years in Texas. At this juncture, an honorable mention should go to Brian Flores. Flores appeared to be doing a good job in Miami. And once the revelations about Stephen Ross, who may or may not have offered to pay Flores to lose while himself being entangled in a tampering scandal, it appeared that Flores had done an exceptional job to win any games with the Dolphins.   

Another Brian, Daboll began his head coaching career with a promising first season in New York. Quarterback whisperer Daboll went 9-7-1 last season, but this season he’s been battling some poor offensive line play (like the Patriots) and the loss of his star running back. As a result of losing Jon Feliciano in free agency and Saquon’s injury, Daboll’s Giants currently stand at 1-4.

Eric Mangini was another Belichick disciple who had his moments as a head coach. “Mangenius” was not only in The Sopranos, but he also notched up two winning seasons as the Jets’ head coach. In his first season as a head coach, the Jets went 10-6, in his third season 2008, they were 9-7. But when they weren’t winning, they were losing. A lot. In his other three seasons with the Jets, they only won 14 games, losing 34!

O’Brien’s tenure in Houston was not without controversy. He famously made DeAndre Hopkins so uncomfortable in Houston that he demanded a trade and ended up in Arizona (talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire). Then there was the role the Texans played in the Deshaun Watson scandal that cost them a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.  

But O’Brien didn’t just follow in Belichick’s coaching footsteps when he joined the Texans, he was also the GM in Houston. But that only lasted two seasons and it wasn’t especially memorable. The internet is littered with articles about how O’Brien whiffed on draft picks, and he traded two draft picks to get Deshaun Watson in 2017, which obviously didn’t go as expected. But at least he didn’t pick Mitchell Trubisky.  

If McDaniels (and let us not forget Jimmy G) can continue Belichick’s run of mind-numbing losses it could well signal the end of Bill’s Patriots career. Who knows? When it does eventually draw to a conclusion all the talk will be about how he’s tarnished his legacy by overstaying his welcome. There’s chatter that he’s chasing Don Shula’s 347 NFL wins. But one thing is for sure, his coaching tree hasn’t blossomed like Shula’s.